The FDR Park Master Plan offers a once-in-a generation opportunity to reimagine a historic Olmsted Park to serve 21st century Philadelphians.
Mayor Jim Kenney announced an investment of $4.5 million towards the implementation of the FDR Park Master Plan in March 2021. The City of Philadelphia in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the Commonwealth’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP), and the Conservancy are committing new funds to implement the Gateway Project, including Pattison Playground and the Welcome Center.
The Welcome Center
The implementation of the first phase of the masterplan will enhance the visitor experience by transforming the 18,000-square-foot guardhouse and stables at the Broad and Pattison Avenue entrance into a modern Welcome Center. The guardhouse will become a shared co-working space where community organizations can deliver park programming. The project will activate a 3,600-square-foot courtyard to offer a one-stop shop for park users with restrooms, creating a staffed information center, and equipment rentals. Finally, the Welcome Center project will transform the former stables into a 4,000-square-foot-cafe and 6,700-square-foot event and community meeting space overlooking Pattison Lagoon.
The first phase of implementation will also include the construction of an exciting signature playground and picnic area celebrating FDR Park’s unique identity. The Children’s Play Area, located near Pattison Lagoon will include high quality, interactive play elements set within a landscape of natural features including barrier-free paths, hills and planted spaces and will be next to the park’s Welcome Center. Design of the destination playscape will be funded by DCNR and Fairmount Park Conservancy.
The FDR Park Master Plan
The FDR Park Master Plan offers a once-in-a generation opportunity to reimagine a historic Olmsted Park to serve 21st century Philadelphians. Just as park visitors experienced a remarkable feat of landscape architecture and civil engineering during the Sesquicentennial, future users will come to know FDR Park as Philadelphia’s centerpiece of recreation, art, ecology and design. FDR Park has always been a product of human invention and imagination and it will continue to be in this resilient vision for the historic park.
In order to achieve this vision, we must bring nature, water, and human activity into balance in one unified system. The master plan is organized into two distinct zones: an Ecological Core that manages water, connects parks users to nature, and provides critical habitat; and an Urban Edge, where new amenities such as state-of-the-art athletic fields and signature playgrounds attract visitors from across the street and across the country.
During the year-long planning process, the project team spoke to nearly 3,000 community members and stakeholders:
- 7 different languages
- 1,200+ survey respondents
- 5 paid Park Ambassadors
- 30+ stakeholder interviews
- 3 community meetings
- 7 community design workshops
In May 2018, the Conservancy, Parks & Recreation, city officials, and Friends of FDR Park celebrated the completion of the FDR Park Master Plan.
Frequently Asked Questions
The FDR Skatepark will remain as is.
FDR Golf Course permanently closed operations on October 31, 2019. The decision to close the course was made by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation because the course is no longer sustainable due to frequent flooding and unprofitable operations. Golfers may use the City’s other public golf courses: Cobbs Creek and Karakung, Walnut Lane, John Byrne and Juniata.
The golf course closure will add up to 150 more acres of park for expanded public use and ecological restoration.
If you would like to know more about the decision to close FDR Golf Course please contact Philadelphia Parks & Recreation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are encouraged by the popularity of the temporary meadowland and trail space at FDR. Residents enjoying the western part of the park today will be glad to learn that the Master Plan will expand FDR’s meadowland by 36% from its previous state. We will triple the current trail network in the park, and introduce sustainable natural lands to the park for the first time.
We are glad the temporary activation of the western half of the park has offered residents a taste of the more permanent and extensive natural spaces and trail network to come.
At the same time, we remain committed to increasing equity and access to high quality athletics fields for youth athletes in the city. Currently, there is a dearth of high-quality (or even playable by regulation standards) athletic fields across the city, and in South Philadelphia particularly. It is not uncommon to hear of youth sports teams paying to cross city lines and use fields in the suburbs due to their quality and accessibility.
The FDR Park Master Plan will deliver the high quality field capacity our youth so desperately need while increasing the footprint of natural lands across the park. Specifically, the athletics fields were designed to be interspersed within a woodland setting that includes natural amenities like trees, native plants, trails, and creeks, and non-natural amenities like playspaces, concession kiosks, and restrooms.
This is a multi-decade master plan that serves as a blueprint for the future of FDR Park.
Early phases should be complete within three years, including, but not limited to, the following projects:
- Philadelphia Parks & Recreation has allocated funds to jump-start investments by repaving the park roads in 2020.
- The roof house on the Guardhouse will be repaired in 2020.
- Philadelphia International Airport has committed to implement the first phase of work, a 40-acre mitigation wetland that will provide important wildlife habitat and access to nature.
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The master plan proposes to increase the amount of parking in FDR Park from 900 to 1,700 spaces. Currently, parking is concentrated in the heart of the park, including in front of the American Swedish Museum and adjacent to the lake. The plan calls to remove the large lots from this area (which will become an important ecological core) into other pockets throughout the park, including the western portion, an underutilized area under I-95, and new lots at the perimeter of the park. This will provide users direct access to specific amenities throughout the park.
Maximizing the area under I-95 for peak parking gives the city the option for a continued revenue stream during major stadium events without disrupting normal park use. In addition, this space will be flexible and could be used for other activities and programming.
In addition, to parking, the master plan proposes three new dedicated pedestrian and bicycle entrances and a new 5k multi-use path to separate vehicles from cyclists.
The capital cost of implementing the Master Plan for FDR Park is projected to be upwards of $200 million. Just as the cost of developing the plan was covered by a mix of public and private funds, implementing the plan will require public-private partnerships. Fairmount Park Conservancy expects to assemble funding from local, state, and federal agencies with additional investment from philanthropic and corporate partners. The goal of this investment is to create a self-sustaining public space that is owned and managed by the city and generates revenue from on-site concessions and events to operate and maintain the park.
April 7, 2021: Fairmount Park Conservancy held a Virtual Open House to share about the improvement projects, programs, and volunteer events planned for the coming year in FDR Park. Participants were able to meet staff from Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation who oversee the maintenance, projects and programs in this park. The session was recorded and can be viewed:
March 9, 2021: Mayor Jim Kenney, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, the Conservancy, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (RACP) announced $4.5 million in funding for the Gateway Project, which includes a modern Welcome Center and interactive playscape. Learn more.
May 22, 2019: The Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation unveiled the FDR Park Master Plan at a celebration on the Boathouse Lawn with Friends of FDR Park, city officials, and the South Philly community. View the master plan.
February 24, 2019: The Conservancy hosted a guided walk on the west side of FDR Park, which currently operates as a public golf course, before the course opened for the season. Check out photos from the walk here.
November 14, 2018: The second community meeting on the FDR Park Master Plan was held at South Philly High from 6 to 8 pm. Over 200 people attended, and the meeting included free food from the SoPhiE food truck and offered free childcare. Participants responded to proposed improvements to the park based on the themes of nature, water, and recreation. Check out the meeting recap here.
October 20, 2018: Exploration Day at FDR Park featured the unveiling of artist Nicole Donnelly’s Carved in Water installation, a paper-making station using plants that grow in the park, and guided walks of the park with Let’s Go Outdoors. Learn more here.
October 2018: WRT, Parks & Recreation, and the Conservancy hosted a series of community design workshops in South Philadelphia in which park users created maps of their ideal FDR Park of the future. Local organizations SEAMAAC and The Aquinas Center helped us engage the immigrant and refugee communities as well as youth who use FDR Park. Learn more about the workshops here and check out the maps participants created here.
August 24, 2018: The Conservancy issued a Call for Artists to submit proposals for an outdoor environmental art installation that helped park users learn about the relationship between FDR Park and climate change. Learn more here.
July 31, 2018: The Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation recruited five community members to work as FDR Park Planning Ambassadors. Ambassadors surveyed park users in the park and in their South Philly communities throughout August and September. Learn more about the ambassadors here.
June 14, 2018: The first community meeting on the FDR Park Master Plan was held at Calvary Temple in Packer Park. Over 100 people attended to share what they love about the park and what could be better. To view a recap community meeting, please click here.
May 2018: FDR Park user survey was published. Over 1,200 people responded to the survey throughout 2018. Our planning team also interviewed over 40 FDR Park stakeholders.
March 2018: Out of the 15 applications received from design firms, WRT was selected to develop the master plan. Read the press release here.
August 2017: Fairmount Park Conservancy issued an RFP for the FDR Park Master Plan.
FDR Park was designed by the Olmsted Brothers and opened in 1921 as League Island Park. The park is a designated Historic District by the Philadelphia Historical Commission and is home to a series of lakes and lagoons, a golf course, the American Swedish Historical Museum, and a range of recreation facilities including tennis courts, ball fields, and a skate park.
FDR Park enjoys heavy use and activity, but as a result its infrastructure and environmental integrity have suffered. In order to restore South Philadelphia’s only large park to its original intent as an urban oasis, the Conservancy, in partnership with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and Friends of FDR Park, embarked on a master planning process. After the Conservancy issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in August 2017, Philly-based design firm WRT, LLC was selected out of the 15 applicants to develop the master plan.
WRT and the Conservancy solicited significant community input throughout the nine- to 12-month planning process. The project team spoke to nearly 3,000 community members and stakeholders. These conversations took place in seven languages and in settings that ranged from online surveys, canvassing in the park, two public open houses, several small design workshops, and more than 30 stakeholder meetings. The project team learned that FDR Park is a critical green oasis in one of South Philadelphia’s most densely populated neighborhoods. Philadelphians look to the park when they want to celebrate life through picnics and special events. They value opportunities to connect with nature and to enjoy safe walking and biking trails.
The public engagement process was accompanied by an equally robust study of the site’s hydrology. This study involved carefully developing an understanding of how stormwater moves onto the site and which portions of the park may experience flooding caused by high groundwater. By aligning community priorities with the realities of a changing climate and a low-lying park, the planning process was oriented toward finding the balance of activity, nature and water.
Please visit the Friends of FDR Park website for more information on upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, and more.
The FDR Park Master Plan has been supported by the William Penn Foundation, the office of Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, and CUSP.
The Gateway project is supported by The City of Philadelphia in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the Commonwealth’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP), and Fairmount Park Conservancy.