Service Grants

rStore: Revitalizing Torresdale Avenue in Tacony

by Linda Dottor — July 1st, 2013   |   Commercial Corridors, Service Grants

Kathy Dethier consults with Mario Sellecchia of Rubino's Pharmacy.

Kathy Dethier consults with Mario Sellecchia of Rubino’s Pharmacy.

Kathy Dethier is Chair of the Department of Design at the Moore College of Art and Design. We were delighted when she spent part of her “summer vacation” last year consulting with store owners on façade improvements through the Collaborative’s rStore program. Below, Kathy talks about the corridor, the goals of the store owners she worked with, and the design solutions.

Last July, I joined two other architects and a cost estimator to work with six store owners on the Torresdale Avenue Commercial Corridor in Tacony. Since its zenith in the ‘30s through the ‘60s, Torresdale Avenue has battled decline and was hard-hit by the recent recession. With a rich variety of independent businesses, 3,000 residents within a five-minute walk, on-street parking, a bike lane, and ample sidewalks, the corridor has real revitalization potential.

Tacony Community Development Corporation is spearheading improvements to the corridor as part of a larger revitalization strategy for this historic Northeast neighborhood.  Tacony CDC’s Corridor Manager, Alex Balloon, likens the campaign to “lifting the aluminum curtain” and revealing the original detail and appeal of the storefronts. He recruited six businesses to do design consultations with the Collaborative.

90 Minutes=Lots of Info
The rStore design consultations began with a 90 minute, one-to-one meeting between a business owner and a Collaborative volunteer. We started off by Read Full Story

Continuous and Connective: A vision for the City Branch

by Linda Dottor — June 1st, 2013   |   Open Space, Placemaking, Service Grants

The City Branch is the underground cousin of the Reading Terminal Viaduct. Branching off from the viaduct at Noble and 13th Street, it chugs westwards with a dramatic dip under Broad Street before swinging north along the edge of Fairmount Park.

The Collaborative worked with Friends of the Rail Park (formerly VIADUCTgreene) to envision the five-block piece of the City Branch between Noble and North Broad as a post-industrial public park.

Get the flash player here:

A volunteer team drawn from OLIN, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, CVM, and VJ Associates worked with Friends of the Rail Park to fully explore the possibilities of the City Branch—repurposing the rail right of way as a linear green space for walking and cycling.

They also came up with some great ideas for repurposing forgotten remnants of adjacent land to build new connections between North Broad Street, Community College of Philadelphia,  and the larger city:

  • an graded entry to the park at North Broad that doubles as a outdoor screening room… ready to watch movies projected on the side of the Inquirer Building?
  • a steel bridge that connects CCP’s campus with parking and housing across the branch on Callowhill Street
  • a terraced student plaza that connects CCP’s campus to the new park


Recent coverage of the City Branch:

Nathaniel Popkin for Hidden City: Plan for City Branch Rail Park Emerges

Dave Heller for Newsworks Tonight: Reading Viaduct would be transformed under plan

Putting the green back in Bainbridge Green

by Linda Dottor — May 24th, 2013   |   Open Space, Service Grants

Bainbridge and 4th Streets: The Collaborative's conceptual plan will help put the “green” back in Bainbridge Green. The biggest opportunity? To redesign four "so-seventies" pedestrian plazas.

Four “so-seventies” plazas offer the best opportunity to put the green back in Bainbridge Green.

The Collaborative is working with Friends of Bainbridge Green on a conceptual design for the stretch of Bainbridge Street between 3rd and 5th Streets.  Originally home to a city marketplace, these blocks were last renovated in the 70’s to provide 175 parking spaces for South Street and Fabric Row.

The project included a median planting bed and a handful of public plazas, but paving and cars ultimately prevailed over pedestrians. Now it’s time, say the Friends, to rethink these existing open spaces to re-balance Bainbridge Green’s current car-centric ambience.

The Collaborative’s volunteer design team—landscape architect Erica Sollberger of Lansdowne Borough, Omar Rosa and Chris Nolan of Stantec, and Peter Denitz of Parsons Brinckerhoff—are working with a community task force organized by Friends of Bainbridge Green.

Plan Philly’s Eyes on the Street reports, “Friends of Bainbridge Green hopes to turn ‘four dilapidated and broken’ small pedestrian plazas at the end of each block into true public spaces. Beyond reworking the pedestrian plazas, neighbors hope to enhance Bainbridge Green’s planted spaces, offer a sense of its history, and create a welcoming gateway to Fabric Row…

… At the first meeting of Friends of Bainbridge Green and the design team on Tuesday night, neighbors expressed hope that Bainbridge Green could become more like a neighborhood commons… Key to any plan for Bainbridge Green will be figuring out ways to maximize and grow the public spaces without removing many or any parking spaces… As Peter Denitz noted, there’s a lot of road real estate here and the goal is to ‘liberate Bainbridge Green as much as possible.’”

Meet Our Clients: Amy Hirsch of CLS

by Linda Dottor — May 1st, 2013   |   Clients, Service Grants

The former North Philadelphia Law Center of the Community Legal Services (CLS) had only a handful of offices with windows, desks in the hallway, a series of floods, and even a few electrical fires. The staff was “eager for a building better suited to our needs and more respectful to our clients,” says Amy Hirsch, Managing Attorney of the Center.

Since the new Center opened in February, Amy observes, it has brought a new dimension to serving the community. “People come to us because they are in crisis… it’s just been interesting to see how much impact being in a calmer, nicer space has had.”

CLS was committed to staying in the neighborhood, which it has served since the ’70s.  So everyone  rejoiced when CLS found a vacant lot nearby to develop near its aging facility in 2009. But the staff, long-accustomed to an inadequate, dim workplace, needed a framework for thinking beyond the basics.

CLS called on the Collaborative to help them envision the new Center. “The Collaborative was fabulously helpful to us,” says Amy, “the design team spent a lot of time with the staff talking about what their needs were.”  The result was a conceptual design for an accessible facility with an airy stairway and courtyard to let in more light.

Mindful of the workplace it wanted to create, CLS ultimately hired Atkin Olshin Schade Architects  to design the new facility, located near Broad and Erie.

Video interview by Liz Jacobs, Penn Urban Studies Program Intern. 

Spring Crop: Six New Service Grants

by Linda Dottor — April 1st, 2013   |   Service Grants

Columbus Square Park in South Philadelphia.

Our service grant will help Columbus Square Park in South Philadelphia devote every piece of open space towards sustainable, people-friendly programming.

A “destination” public park seeking still more games, gardening, and gatherings;  the playground of a school saved from closure by its strong parent-advocates, and a future three-acre urban farm… that’s a sample of the Collaborative’s spring crop of service grants.

Here are the nonprofits, people, and places that Collaborative volunteers will be working with over the next six months:

Brewerytown/Sharswood Community Civic Association | Lower North Philadelphia
Conceptual design to spruce up storefront façades at the intersection of N. 25th Street and W. Thompson Streets

Columbus Square Park Advisory Council/Passyunk Square Civic Association | South Philadelphia
Conceptual design to improve Columbus Square Park

E.M. Stanton School Advisory Committee/SOSNA | South Philadelphia
Conceptual design for a sustainable outdoor space with curriculum integration opportunities and a safe and engaging play

The Friends of Bainbridge Green/Queen Village Neighbors Association | South Philadelphia
Conceptual design to support greening and gathering places on the 300 and 400 blocks of Bainbridge Street and a gateway to Fabric Row

Islamic Cultural Preservation and Information Council | West Philadelphia
Conceptual design to create a mixed-use commercial/residential building and expand the New Africa Center

Urban Tree Connection | West Philadelphia
Conceptual design for an urban farm and center for an urban food producer’s cooperative

About Our Service Grant Program
The Community Design Collaborative’s Service Grant Program provides critical information to neighborhoods and nonprofits at a critical time—the very beginning of the project.

The Service Grant Program helps to answer practical questions: How’s our roof? What will the code allow? What’s our best option? How much will our project cost? But it also helps address less tangible but equally important questions:  What do we envision?  How can we engage my community? How can we win over potential funders?

The Collaborative awards up to 30 service grants of preliminary design services to nonprofit organizations each year through its Service Grant Program. These service grants respond to the unique needs of each grant recipient, typically providing $15,000 – $25,000 in pro bono preliminary design services.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Grants are awarded four times a year. Grant recipients must pay an administrative fee at the start of the project to offset direct costs. Learn more!


Meet Our Clients: Rachel Dukeman of Plays and Players

by Linda Dottor — March 1st, 2013   |   Clients, Preservation, Service Grants

Plays and Players is a century-old theater club devoted to promoting emerging Philadelphia artists and new works. In the vibrant and rapidly expanding Philadelphia theater scene, Plays and Players offers an historical base to the city’s theater industry, which is now home to over 150 theater companies and counting.

The club’s historic Delancey Street building was built in 1911 and has beautiful features of the Arts and Crafts movement scattered throughout, including a four-story cast iron spiral staircase behind the stage, beautiful iron-work gates, and an original heating system. These details fill the space with character and a sense of history, but also pose unique challenges: the radiators whistle, the roof leaks, and the steep, narrow staircases are not handicapped accessible.


The main theater of Plays and Players was opened as part of the Little Theater movement in the 1910’s. The building is still using its original heating system. 

Once the board of directors realized something had to be done Read Full Story

Design Services Updates: Fellowship Farm, Wynne Ballroom, and green schoolyards

by Linda Dottor — February 28th, 2013   |   Service Grants, Sustainability

A vignette from the conceptual master plan illustrating an engaging future for Fellowship Farm's

A vignette from the conceptual master plan illustrating an engaging future for Fellowship Farm.

A multi-talented team of Collaborative volunteers has completed a conceptual master plan for Fellowship Farm, an education and retreat center in Sanatoga, PA with a proud history of leadership development and social change.

The volunteer team was fielded by the AIA Philadelphia’s Regional Architects Committee, which recruited key professionals for the team from the suburban Philadelphia architectural community. The team encompassed professionals from the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, preservation, structural engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and cost estimating.

They worked closely with Fellowship Farm’s task force to assess existing facilities and develop an engaging long-term vision for the 120-acre campus that includes new dormitories, meeting spaces, a museum, a barn for farm animals, trails, nature education, an outdoor pavilion, campground, playgrounds and playing fields.

Thanks to David Tulin, executive director of Fellowship Farm, and the entire volunteer team:

Constance Lezenby Architects, LLC, Lansdale, PA
Constance A. Lezenby, AIA
Sandra Szabo, RA

Glackin Thomas Panzak, Inc., Paoli, PA
Bernard Panzak, Jr., ASLA
Chris H. Garrity
Matthew Caucci, ASLA

sbk + partners, LLC, Ardmore, PA
Suzanna Barucco

Thornton Tomasetti, Philadelphia, PA
Sean Levengood, PE

N.E. Fisher & Associates, Boyertown, PA
Neal Fisher, PE

Bruce E. Brooks & Associates, Philadelphia, PA
Evan Pappas

C. Erickson & Sons, Inc., Philadelphia, PA
Patrick Snoke

New life for the Wynne Ballroom
We worked with the Wynnefield Overbrook Revitalization Corporation in 2009 to study re-use options for this neighborhood landmark, vacant for nearly 20 years. In February, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority issued a Request for Proposals to redevelop the Wynne site. Mixed-use development with a preservation component is encouraged in the RFP.

Meadows and Trees for Cook-Wissahickon
Cook Wissahickon Elementary School has received a $27,000 matching grant from the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund to install a native meadow framing its main entrance on Salaignac Street. The meadow will enhance stormwater control and filtration and extend the habitats of nearby Fairmount Park. New trees will also be planted as part of greening the schoolyard.

The project is the first phase of a 2009 conceptual landscape plan by the Collaborative. The school recently hosted a potluck dinner to thank everyone who helped them with their green school curriculum and improvements. Work on the meadow starts this spring with hands-on help from the Delaware Valley Green Building Council’s Emerging Professionals Committee.

Blooming plans: Cook-Wissahickon recognized the Collaborative contributions to the school’s greening initiatives. (l to r) Suzanna Fabry, Tavis Dockwiller, Linda Dottor, and Jason Sandman.

Blooming plans: Cook-Wissahickon Elementary School recognized our contributions to the school’s greening initiatives. (l to r) Suzanna Fabry, Linda Dottor, Tavis Dockwiller, and Jason Sandman.

Greening Urban  Schoolyards

Greening schoolyards continues to gain momentum in other places as well. In January, Lea and Kelly Elementary Schools, the focus of our Transforming Urban Schoolyards design charrette, began mobilizing their school communities.

Julie Scott of the West Philadelphia Coalition for Neighborhood Schools presented at West Philadelphia’s Henry C. Lea Elementary School, prompting praise for Lea’s community engagement and potential. Dennis Barneby of Hansberry Garden and Nature Center presented to John B. Kelly Elementary School. “Engaging students in how to take care of the place that they live is really important… these are the future residents of our neighborhoods.”

A Nature Center for Meadowood

In 2012, Meadowood Elementary School in Worcester, PA has raised $115,000 in grants and matching contributions to move forward with priorities outlined in a Collaborative conceptual master plan for a community nature center. The grant will fund the retrofit of an existing stormwater basin and installation of a series of uphill rain gardens.

The nature center will encompass the campus and the adjacent Meadowood Retirement Community and serve multi-generational nature lovers. Ciro Tornambe, a Meadowood parent reports that “we plan to build on our success” and the school will pursue additional funding in 2013.