The FDR Park Plan offers a once-in-a generation opportunity to reimagine a historic Olmsted Park to serve 21st century Philadelphians.
Latest Project Updates
In October 2021, Fairmount Park Conservancy, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, elected officials, and the Friends of FDR Park unveiled new designs for the future Welcome Center and a world-class play space at FDR Park and announced a city investment of $50 million in the future of the South Philadelphia park.
The Welcome Center
The Gateway phase of the FDR Park Plan will enhance the visitor experience at FDR Park by restoring and transforming the 5,500 square foot historic guardhouse at the Broad Street and Pattison Avenue entrance into a Welcome Center.
In 2021, with support of $3 million in state of Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant funds and $1 million from the City of Philadelphia’s capital budget, Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation engaged the planning and design firm WRT to design the park’s first-ever Welcome Center as the hub for all park activities.
The Welcome Center will include:
- An open-air courtyard to serve as a community gathering space
- A staffed information center where visitors will be able to find out about upcoming events, rent equipment to use in the park, and sign up for park permits
- Food and beverage vendors
- A co-working space for park staff and community partners
The Welcome Center will also transform the existing stables into a 4,000-square-foot cafe and 6,700-square-foot event space overlooking Pattison Lagoon. This project will also include making repairs to the riparian edge of the lagoon, allowing visitors to enjoy water views.
Next to the Welcome Center will be a world-class destination play space that encourages nature play for all ages and abilities. Throughout the year-long planning process, the project planners heard from the community that they wanted to see more nature and more play at FDR Park. In addition, throughout summer 2021, children and caregivers shared via workshops and online engagement that they wanted to see a variety of play spaces and features that encourage children to climb, swing, and explore.
Based on this feedback, WRT designed the new play space to allow park-goers of all ages and abilities “wonder and wander” around the two-acre site, which will include:
- A mega-swing set with 30 swings, designed for all ages overlooking the Pattison Lagoon
- Nature-based play equipment including spinners, log and boulder scrambles, and treehouses
- Rolling hills with slides
- Barrier-free adventure paths
- A picnic area with pavilions
- Seat walls located under shady groves overlooking the play area
- New landscaping featuring beautiful native and pollinator-friendly plantings
Fairmount Park Conservancy wants your feedback on the future programming of the Welcome Center and the play space. Please take this short survey to share your thoughts!
The FDR Park Plan
The FDR Park 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 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 2019, the Conservancy, Parks & Recreation, city officials, and Friends of FDR Park celebrated the completion of the FDR Park Plan.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the roles of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Fairmount Park Conservancy, and Friends of FDR Park with regard to the FDR Park Plan?
Philadelphia Parks & Recreation is a City department that initiated the planning process and is the land owner. Philadelphia Parks & Recreation is responsible for the maintenance and permitting of FDR park.
Fairmount Park Conservancy is a non-profit organization that led the Plan, is leading the current fundraising initiatives and has been hired by the City to lead the implementation of the Plan, and supports FDR Park’s users through temporary restrooms, signage, and public programs.
Friends of FDR Park acts as a community voice for the park and organizes fellow volunteers in planting, greening, fundraising, and event planning. Friends of FDR is part of a citywide network of neighborhood park volunteers coordinated by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and Fairmount Park Conservancy.
The FDR Skatepark will remain as is.
The 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 was no longer sustainable due to frequent flooding and unprofitable operations.
As a result of the pandemic, FDR Park visitation surged to unprecedented levels. Philadelphia Parks & Recreation responded to the need for more outdoor space by temporarily opening up the former golf course area of FDR for passive use in 2020.
The former golf course’s 150 acres will be transformed into a series of wetlands, trails, expanded water features, an overlook hill, as well as athletic fields and courts.
- In partnership with the Philadelphia International Airport, a new wetland system will be constructed on 45 acres in the southwest border of the site. The new wetlands will provide important wildlife habitat and deliver access to trails and nature
- The park will have 12 new multipurpose fields and four new baseball/softball fields that are open for public use with a clear permitting system. This will make up 21 acres of the former golf course area.
- Concessions, trails, and a second signature play space interspersed with the fields will ensure that multiple generations of park users can enjoy the spaces simultaneously
- The Overlook Hill, will rise 36 feet above FDR and offer great views of the city, the rivers, and beyond.
- The Hill will change with the seasons, offering sledding in the winter, panoramas of autumn color, and meadow wildflowers in the spring and summer – plus exhilarating climbs and an extra-long slide year-round
- An marsh area that will provide park users with new water access to an expanded and restored Shedbrook Creek. Shedbrook Creek will be expanded, restored, and the riparian buffer significantly increased. It will become a tree-shaded corridor connecting areas of active recreation and play on the western half of the park. The creek will also offer a public access point, inviting Philadelphians to explore this little-known waterway by kayak or canoe for the first time in the park’s history.
Currently, there is a lack 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 Conservancy is currently engaged in efforts to collect data on the exact needs of youth sports communities across the city.)
The FDR Park Plan will deliver the high quality field capacity our youth need by adding 12 multi-use sports fields to the former golf course area. The 12 athletic fields are 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.
Unlike the current fields in the park, and in many parks throughout the city, the synthetic turf of the new athletic fields will provide a reliable playing surface that is able to accommodate multiple games per day and rebound almost immediately from flooding and rainstorms. The larger, tree-lined field complex will incorporate other complementary program elements like trails, playgrounds, restrooms, and food and drink concessions to improve the overall visitor experience.
The multi-use sports fields will also support the necessary operational revenue of FDR Park by generating funds via travel sports tournaments that will go towards ongoing maintenance, staffing and upkeep of FDR Park.
Yes. The FDR Plan proposes that in order to sustain the park’s operational budget, the fields would be used by tournaments 20 weekends a year – with the full 12 fields only used on the first day of each tournament. Thereby, even during those 20 weekends a year, the public is still able to use some of the fields on Saturdays and Sundays during tournaments.
How will funds from the Fields be used to support FDR Park and the city at large? What is the plan to make sure the community and the city will have access to the fields?
The funds from the fields will go back into the maintenance and upkeep of FDR Park. To ensure that the community will have access to the fields, Fairmount Park Conservancy, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the Friends of FDR Park are continuing the community engagement from the Plan by building advisory groups for the park (The Fields, the Playground, etc) made up of frequent park users. The advisory group will ensure that the community has a seat at the table and a say in the evolution of the amenities as they are built.
In addition, the Conservancy’s role moving forward is to ensure that we are supporting equitable programming and opportunities for all park users throughout and following the implementation of the plan.
The FDR Park Plan was shared with the public in May of 2019. Philadelphia’s Bid Committee was announced in October of 2019. PPR presented to the bid committee in early 2020 to help them understand the assets in the City’s system that may support the bid. The FDR Park plan was included in that conversation. The idea is to use things that are already planned for FDR and use the urgency around the World Cup bid to move things quickly. Our hope is that if Philadelphia is selected as one of 10 host cities for the 2026 World Cup, two fields that would be used for two weeks in 2026 for the World Cup would gain funding momentum, moving this piece of the project forward.
If Philadelphia is the site of the FIFA World Cup in 2026, what facilities will be added to the Park to accommodate the event?
The FDR Park Plan calls for two sites for athletics fields and courts on the former golf course: the Penrose Fields and the Pattison Fields. On the site of the Pattison Fields, we’ve been in conversations with the World Cup bid team about one or more of those fields being built and utilized as a potential training site for inclusion in the city’s World Cup bid.
We see this is a great option to advance the design and construction of the Pattison Fields.
The plan calls for amenities to support the fields and courts at FDR, such as restrooms, a press box, concession stands, storage facilities, and more. These amenities could be built for and utilized as part of a possible training site for the World Cup; an event which would utilize the amenities for two weeks, after which they would be used in perpetuity at FDR Park.
I love being in nature at FDR. What natural resources will be available for me to enjoy in the Park?
Nature lovers will be glad to learn that the Plan will expand the park’s meadowland by 36% from its previous state. In addition, the trails network will triple in size (2.4 miles to 7 miles) and introduce sustainable natural lands to the park for the first time.
The Ecological Core area of the Plan will be located around the current lakes of FDR, the future 45 acres of wetlands, and an expanded Shedbrook Creek:
- The lakes will feature elevated boardwalks, access points for fishing and paddling
- The marsh area will provide park users with new water access to an expanded and restored Shedbrook Creek
- The Hill will rise 36 feet above FDR and offer great views among meadow wildflowers.
- New 30 acre wetland
- Restored riparian edges of the lakes
The Conservancy will also continue to bring public programming to explore FDR Park’s natural resources with bird walks, trail runs, paddling, and more.
During COVID, many community members discovered FDR Park for the first time. Can we reconsider the plan to add more nature, space away from cars, meadow spaces?
The FDR Park Plan’s year-long planning and public engagement process gathered input from nearly 3,000 community members and stakeholders. Public conversations took place in seven
languages and in settings that ranged from park surveys, activities and ambassadors in the park, public open houses, several small design workshops, and more than 30 stakeholder meetings. There is a lot of commonality between park users/residents engaged during the planning process and new users during COVID around what they want to see at FDR Park. Both see FDR Park as a unique and critical green space in one of South Philadelphia’s most densely populated neighborhoods. Both value opportunities to connect with nature, get outdoors, and to enjoy the park in new ways.
The plan’s 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 and increased rainfall due to climate change. Informed by this, the FDR Park Plan will add more nature: expanding FDR’s meadowland from its previous state, tripling the amount of trails throughout the park; and will introduce sustainable natural lands to park for the first time.
This alignment of community priorities with the realities of a changing climate and a low-lying park oriented the planning process toward finding the balance of activity, nature and water.
The hydrology study took place before it was determined that the golf course would be removed. Doesn’t that mean the study is flawed and that PHL Airport’s wetlands are being placed in the wrong section of the park?
The airport’s first hydrology study did take place prior to the closing of the golf course. However, it looked at the entire landscape within the park boundary (including the area of the former golf course) and determined the most appropriate placement of a restored wetland – at the southwest border of the park.
During the planning planning process, FPC was also able to use this data and was supported by the William Penn Foundation in being able to perform hydrology models of each of the planning scenarios.
The 45-acre site that was selected for the airport wetland was the original, natural low point on this site. But in recent years, this 45-acre site has been filled in by disposed construction materials and debris, preventing the site from it’s natural drainage patterns. By transforming it into wetlands, the wetlands will allow the park to drain faster after a rain event, and park-goers have more access to nature and trails.
Additionally, the wetlands project will provide the park with 350,000 cubic feet of earth that will be used to elevate other areas of the former golf course out of the flood plain, including the athletic fields and courts and the Hill overlook.
How does the city plan to fund sustained maintenance of the park overtime and ensure that all the new work is not done in vain?
In terms of sustaining the maintenance of FDR Park over time, that work comes down to ensuring a set of reliable funding streams are flowing into the park, including from the private and public sector.
Throughout the planning process, the community very clearly prioritized a clean, safe, and well-cared for park. In order for FDR Park to deliver on its promises of social, economic, and environmental benefits for residents, the site will require a higher level of service than it currently experiences. FDR Park is a 348-acre site with a complex portfolio of amenities that require much more than the “trash, mow, and blow” practices commonly found in municipal parks. The athletic fields, wetlands, historic building, and horticultural plantings will all require specialized care.
Achieving the level of service across an expanded scope of offerings will require new sources and new partnerships for maintenance and operations. The operational budget assumes that FDR Park’s governance and programming has been carefully designed to break even through earned revenue and sponsorship, freeing up public dollars to support other park assets in the City of Philadelphia.
A sustainable operating strategy requires that targets for an endowment are integrated into the initial capital campaign and sponsorship strategy. In addition, supplementing the park’s revenue to cover unexpected costs or capital replacement with an endowment should be used to support the programs that may not generate revenue but provide benefits to the community and to sustain the natural resources for generations to come.
Will there be efforts made to preserve the community use of the Park? In particular, the Cambodian Community who has a weekend market?
The partners working on the FDR Park Plan are absolutely committed to preserving community use of the park. We are working hand-in-hand with the weekend markets to ensure that they continue to thrive. All are welcome to join the Conservancy’s Flavors of FDR Food Tasting Tours that take place monthly at the Asian Market.
The plan ensures that there will be a physical space to accommodate the vendors’ markets moving forward. The City of Philadelphia’s current administration is committed to supporting the market through this process. In addition, we and the City have supported the vendors’ recent and ongoing efforts to formalize and organize as they formed the Vendors Association of FDR Park.
We will continue to support the City’s commitment to provide the vendors with a more secure future at FDR Park.
This is a multi-decade 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 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 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 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 Plan at a celebration on the Boathouse Lawn with Friends of FDR Park, city officials, and the South Philly community. View the 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 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 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 plan. Read the press release here.
August 2017: Fairmount Park Conservancy issued an RFP for the FDR Park 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 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 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 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.