Frankford Pause

by Linda Dottor — July 1st, 2014   |   Design Grants, Open Space, Placemaking


Volunteers Ben Cromie, Alexa Bosse, Airi Miller, and Andy Allwine with Mayor Michael Nutter at the pop-up park unveiling.

At a block party on Saturday, Mayor Michael Nutter unveiled our conceptual plans for Frankford Pause, a pop-up park to be built on a vacant lot next to the Margaret-Orthodox Station. View our album from the unveiling.

Frankford Pause is a part of Destination Frankford, an arts-based initiative using marketing and creative placemaking to enhance and expand the resources of Frankford’s growing arts, artisanal industry, and creative business economy. A pop-up gallery next to the park was also created through the initiative.

Reactivating the Area Around the El
“Frankford was an industrial powerhouse,” says Ian Litwin, a city planner with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission and author of Destination Frankford. Through Destination Frankford, he has been partnering with Frankford CDC to make Frankford a place “where people make things again, just in a different economy.”

“Lots of those old buildings are vacant. A good number are now seeing new life—but not many close to the El,” says Ian. “Destination Philadelphia is re-engaging Philadelphians with the blocks bordering Frankford Avenue. Projects like the pop-up park and pop-up gallery are making them visible—even from the El!”

Our excellent volunteer team, led by Alexa Bosse, used a bold, bright pink for key elements of the park. Loops of hot pink shade cloth will crisscross the sky. Pink paths of pink artificial turf will traverse the lot.  The loops will contain lighting activated by the sound of passing trains.

Moveable cubes covered in pink artificial turf can be reconfigured to fit any community event—an art show, a movie screening, an open air market, or a concert. Plywood platforms will provide perches for sitting, reclining, play, and performances. Plus, the park will provide an engaging place to enjoy new wall murals by Cesar Viveros.

Think Pink, Think Permanent
Kim Washington of Frankford CDC explains, “Margaret-Orthodox is our busiest corner.” She believes this intersection merits more than a vacant lot and says the pop-up park will guide the design of a permanent park. “In the short term, we’re designing a public space for people to come and use, to get an idea of what works and doesn’t work… what people like.”

So what about that pink? Kim recalls, “This was a great idea that came from Alexa [Bosse]. At first it was a shock, but the more we talked and the more the design came together… we really fell in love with it.”

Frankford Pause will be installed and open in Spring 2015.

Volunteer Team
Alexa Bosse, Architectural/Landscape Designer
Ari Miller, Landscape Architect
Andrew Allwine, Architectural Designer
Benjamin Cromie, Planner
Robin Miller, Lighting Designer



Numbers to Turn Around Neighborhoods

by Kim Bernardin — June 25th, 2014   |   Uncategorized, Volunteers

Meet our Volunteers: Cost Estimator Patrick Snoke 


One of the most crucial aspects of the Collaborative design process is cost estimating—it helps community organizations understand what’s feasible and demonstrates how the design process can begin to inform fundraising. This vital process allows communities to set and achieve their goals.

For the past three years, the Collaborative has benefitted from Patrick Snoke’s active involvement and expertise. As a cost estimator, Patrick has donated over 160 hours of his time on projects such as Fellowship Farm, Starfinder Foundation, Spring Gardens, New Freedom Theater and several rStore façade improvement projects. His sense of humor and humility can make it easy to take his work for granted, but when we talked with him, it became clear that Patrick makes a huge impact.

Though the bulk of cost estimating is done at the end of the project, Patrick prefers to give his input from the very beginning. As a seasoned construction and building expert, he joins in site visits and meeting clients to ensure that plans end up being feasible and realistic.

As he explains it, the work he does is barbelled with site visits and research in the beginning, and then cost estimation calculations in the end.  Although he jokes about his free time in the middle of the design process, in reality he uses this time to take on more projects, sometimes working on two at once. “Because it’s pockets of work, it’s easier for me to manage the workload. It’s probably why I volunteer more often, or when I get the phone call I’ll say, ‘Yeah of course I’ll do it.’”

Helping Communities Take the Initiative
The reason for Patrick’s consistent involvement? There are many, but most influential is his past experience directing construction and maintenance for a large nonprofit. Because of this, he truly understands the challenges of this sector. In his experience, many nonprofits “know the programs they want to provide to people, but they don’t know how to manifest that into a building that would do what they need to do.”

This is where Patrick and other Collaborative volunteers step in. And for him, “that’s the most rewarding part, to be able to participate and help the nonprofits take their program in a direction they want to go.”

For Patrick, helping communities “push along” their mission feels especially impactful in smaller scale projects like rStore, where design professionals help revitalize Philadelphia’s commercial corridors through façade improvements. In one day, Collaborative volunteers consult with store owners and brainstorm viable options for improving their facades. These are later translated into drawings and cost estimates, which are given to the storeowners to support reinvestment in the corridor.

Patrick notes that, in these projects “you see some of the communities actually do the work, and make immediate progress.” With quantifiable goals in hand, “an ambitious group of volunteers and organizations” can quickly make a huge difference in their neighborhood.

According to Patrick, this type of community design is especially important in Philadelphia today. “Community development corporations put the ability of the people who are actually in the neighborhood to push along the projects, and they turn around their own community.”

In the end, for Patrick, the logic is simple: “they’re taking the initiative to be responsible for their community, so professionals should be involved to help them.”

Our Latest Design Grants: Connecting CAPA and More

by Kim Bernardin — June 25th, 2014   |   Design Grants, Design Services

We’re pleased to announce our latest group of design service grants! Through these grants, our volunteer design professionals work side-by-side with communities to put their visions down on paper and move ahead with fundraising, gaining community and political support, and getting projects built. Here is what’s in store at the Collaborative in the coming months.

The Collaborative will work with the CAPA Home and School Association. We’ll help them discover how the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts can transform its open space into an asset that enhances CAPA’s identity and connects it to the Avenue of the Arts, the surrounding neighborhood, and Philadelphia as a whole.

Looming over Broad Street, CAPA’s formal frontage is in need of some new life.

CAPA’s formal frontage is in need of some new life.

The South Street Headhouse District (SSHD) will receive a grant to participate in the Collaborative’s rStore program, which promotes store owner investment in storefrong façade improvements.  Collaborative volunteers will consult with up to eight South Street business owners to recommend specific improvements such as painting, lighting, new doors and windows, or planters. Firm believers in the idea that “good design is good business,” SSHD is using rStore to engage business owners in creating a more vibrant district.

Bethesda Project provides shelter, housing and outreach to the homeless. The Collaborative will complete a site feasibility study for a “step-up” facility that will place engagement, respite beds, permanent supportive housing, and support services all under one roof. The facility was identified as a top priority in Bethesda House’s recent strategic plan.

In partnership with the Manayunk Development Corporation, the Collaborative is producing conceptual designs for greening several sites in Northwest Philadelphia. These projects will provide places for the community to experience nature, while using watershed elements to manage storm water and ensure sustainability. In the coming months, the two following sites will receive design grants as part of this project:

The North Light Community Center works to support and enrich the lives of children, teens and families, providing invaluable resources and programming. The Collaborative’s design grant will help North Light incorporate environmental education into their programs with a conceptual master plan for the playground and other open space surrounding the center.

The Collaborative will also produce designs for the schoolyard of James Dobson Elementary School. The goal is to incorporate local history, preservation and the significance of the Wissahickon Watershed into the design of the open space and provide learning opportunities for students and an amenity for the community.


We’re helping Dobson Elementary add nature – and subtract concrete – in their schoolyard.

Viola Street To Partner with Habitat for Humanity

by Kim Bernardin — June 9th, 2014   |   Design Grants, Housing

Photo Credit: Plan Philly,  June 29, 2012

Handsome homes, dedicated neighbors. Photo Credit: Plan Philly, June 29, 2012

For years, the Viola Street Residents Association (VSRA) has worked to improve their neighborhood, organizing block clean-up days, maintaining a thriving community garden, and advocating for the reinvestment in their blocks and the surrounding area.

Last year, we collaborated with VSRA on Project Reclaim, a master plan for revitalizing the 4200 block of Viola Street and the surrounding streets. The master plan laid out a blueprint for addressing a few clusters of distressed or vacant properties and beautifying the streetscape, all while maintaining historical authenticity.  This summer, a partnership with Habitat for Humanity will help VSRA take some next steps in bringing that vision to life.

Joyce Smith, Community Development Coordinator of VSRA, writes, “Habitat for Humanity and resident volunteers will work on façade improvements on the 4100 and 4200 blocks of Viola Street [a structure on North 42nd Street will receive improvements too]. Part of that period we will block the streets off to allow Habitat for Humanity volunteers and residents to work their magic! The work will begin around June 16th and completed around July 31st.”

Habitat for Humanity and VSRA’s Garden and Beautification Committee will also collaborate on landscaping vacant lots and replacing sidewalks, in addition to an overall Block Cleaning. Finally, residents will participate in window preservation training, and will then work to restore original windows in the historic homes designated for repair.

Habitat for Humanity is partnering with the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia and staff from the University of Pennsylvania’s Historic Preservation program on its Viola Street work.

Joyce notes, “Needless to say, our Collaborative design continues to serve as our inspiration.”

We wish Viola Street the best of luck this summer as they take these steps to make their vision a reality!


Making a Start at Reviving Two Parks  

by Linda Dottor — June 2nd, 2014   |   Clients, Open Space, Urban Energy

Most of our pro bono park plans get their start through local efforts to unleash the green and make room for good things to happen. Here are tales of two parks—Gold Star Park and Titan Park— that are moving forward thanks to the muscle (and heart) of their communities. As an added bonus—some of our volunteers lent a hand.

gold star park depaving_tom haliwell

A Gold Star for Tom Halliwell
In April, volunteer Tom Halliwell hosted a bachelor “depaving” party for Gold Star Park. His bachelors chopped out a big swath of asphalt to establish the communal lawn recommended in our pro bono conceptual plan for the park in 2011.

Tom is documenting the equipment, costs, and do’s-and-don’t’s of citizen depaving to help other communities take on similar projects.

Loving Titan Park
Earlier this year, the Collaborative completed a Do-It-Yourself master plan to resurrect this pocket park in South Philadelphia. Our work helped the Titan Park’s supporters take the next step—installing planters and turning the circle of concrete at the center of the park into a planting bed. They reclaimed the neglected park during Love Your Park, getting it ready for use in time for the summer.

Myles Goodman, director of the Friends of Titan Park, writes, “Our Love Your Park day was a huge success. We had almost 30 people show up, and we got more done than I ever imagined. New Collaborative volunteer Doug Maisey joined Titan for their work day. Myles writes, “Thanks for sending us Doug Maisey. He was a huge help. Very professional, worked hard, stayed late, and contributed some great ideas.”


News from Tacony, the Rail Park, and Hagert Playground

by Linda Dottor — June 2nd, 2014   |   In The Media

Nonprofits are moving forward with improvements to Tacony’s Torresdale Avenue, the Rail Park, and Hagert Playground. Here’s a roundup of the latest news about nonprofits and community leaders who are using our design grants as a springboard to success.

EYES ON THE STREET New Facades for Bull's Eye Darts and The Computer Guy

EYES ON THE STREET New Facades for Bull’s Eye Darts and The Computer Guy

Tacony celebrates 15 refreshed storefronts
Fresh paint, new lighting and awnings and improvements made “one mosaic tile at a time” are adding up to give Torresdale Avenue a new look, writes Ashely Hahn of Eyes on the Street.

UNUSUAL SPACES: Abandoned Railway Below Philadelphia
The late Paul VanMeter walked PBS Digital Studio through “one of the greatest architectural spaces ever.” This stunning footage will build your appreciation for the submerged City Branch. The other branch of the future Rail Park, the elevated rail line that snakes through the Loft District east of Broad, has received funding for the first phaseof development.

Hagert Playground Plan_5-28-2014

Friends of Hagert Playground Unveil Plans For Renovation
When Max Pulcini of The Spirit asked East Kensington’s Julius Rivera about Hagert Playground’s role in community building, he said, “The playground is a sacred space. This is a place where fights shouldn’t happen, a space that is safe— where there aren’t needles, there isn’t glass. A place where people can walk in and not worry.” Greening the playground will only strengthen the playground’s role.

New Life In Morgan Village Circle

by Andrew Halt — June 2nd, 2014   |   Design Grants

13-09 morgan village view toward HS

Located in Camden, east of I-676 and south of downtown, Morgan Village is a struggling neighborhood. Half its residents live below the poverty line, and about half have less than a high school diploma. However, Morgan Village is full of youth. A third of its residents are under 18.  There is a clear need to empower the neighborhood, from making better schools to building more housing to refurbishing the neighborhood.

The Morgan Village Circle Community Development Corporation (MVCCDC) asked the Collaborative to help them make recent investment in education and housing in the village more visible, focusing on character and quality of public spaces. These recent investments include a new elementary school (H B Wilson Elementary School), a new magnet combined middle school and high school (the Morgan Village Creative Arts High School), and a City sponsored housing development.

After meeting with the Morgan Village community, The Collaborative focused on revamping three main community gateways, one on either end of the neighborhood and one at the center. The gateways at the edges of the neighborhood are located at key intersections which get heavy use and are the entrances to Morgan Village. The area at the center consists of an existing gathering space across from the new Creative Arts High School, and spots next to community businesses.

13-09 morgan village east entrance view copy

Dubbed “Creative Canvas” to get students involved in creating and placing art into the “fabric” of the neighborhood, there were many improvements that the Collaborative team decided would help create a better Morgan Village. These improvements include better signage for the entrance into Morgan Village by I-676, improved lighting, new crosswalks, extensive greening and tree planting, and murals.