City of Philadelphia, Fairmount Park Conservancy Announce New Designs, Funding for FDR Park

Birding in West Fairmount ParkBirding in West Fairmount Park (Submitted Images)

PHILADELPHIA, PA — Fairmount Park Conservancy, the City of Philadelphia, elected officials, and the Friends of FDR Park this week unveiled new designs for the future Welcome Center and a world-class destination play space at FDR Park and announced significant city investment in the future of the South Philadelphia park.

“Safe, high quality places to play are the foundation of strong and healthy communities,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. “The City’s $50 million commitment to FDR Park is an investment in the many diverse communities that call this park home. The hard work being done today will deliver a modern, safe, and welcoming FDR Park for future generations of Philadelphians to enjoy.”

The City’s $50 million investment, to be distributed over the next five years, is a significant step in advancing the implementation of the $250 million FDR Park Master Plan. A portion of the city funding will go toward the Gateway Phase, which is underway with its first two signature projects: the park’s first-ever Welcome Center and a world-class destination play space.

The Welcome Center

The Gateway phase of the master plan will enhance the visitor experience at FDR Park by restoring and transforming the 5,500 square foot guardhouse at the Broad Street and Pattison Avenue entrance into a Welcome Center.

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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
  • Restrooms
  • A 30-person 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.

“FDR Park is one of the most diverse and dynamic green spaces in our City,” said Kathryn Ott Lovell, Commissioner, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. “The Masterplan is a true once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to harness the passion residents have for this park and build a sustainable and vibrant future for FDR Park. The Welcome Center and Play Area will offer high quality park amenities that encourage visitors to extend their stay, and come back more often to enjoy all that FDR has to offer.”

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The Children’s Play Area: South Philadelphia’s Destination Play Space

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 master 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 has been committed to bringing more nature and more play to FDR Park since day one, and we could not be more excited to get to work to make this iconic play space and Welcome Center a reality,” says Maura McCarthy, Ph.D., Executive Director of Fairmount Park Conservancy. “We also know that it’s the people that make FDR Park so special,  so we look forward to continuing to work with the FDR Park community to bring these spaces to life to serve everyone in the best way possible.”

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Design of the Children’s Play Area was funded by a $250,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which was matched by a $250,000 contribution from the Fairmount Park Conservancy.

Fairmount Park Conservancy stated it is seeking community feedback on the future programming of the Welcome Center and the play space. Participants are encouraged to complete a short survey to share their thoughts: https://myphillypark.org/fdr-park

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