Community invited to take part in Center for Sustainable Communities-led workshops

Developing Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) plans for three locations in the Delaware Direct and Tookany/Takony-Frankford watersheds.

The Center for Sustainable Communities at Temple University has begun a project to develop Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) plans for three locations in the Delaware Direct and Tookany/Takony-Frankford watersheds.

In March and April, the Center and its community partners will be seeking the direct input of Philadelphia residents during public design workshops to help envision just what those three locations might become in the future.

“The Center is collaborating with key community partners in the coming weeks to hold three visioning exercises to develop conceptual plans for three sites in Philadelphia. The workshops will have a specific focus on potential green stormwater infrastructure projects and recreational uses for these underutilized sites,” said Dr. Mahbubur Meenar, Assistant Director of GIS Operations and Research for the Center for Sustainable Communities and an adjunct faculty member in Temple’s Department of Community and Regional Planning, who is the principal investigator on the grant-supported project. “Each event will involve a short presentation by Temple faculty about green stormwater infrastructure, followed by a small-group interactive design activity for the site.”

According to Meenar, the Center and its three community partners are using “a public participatory planning and design process to implement these community projects.”

“Working to initiate community-driven geodesign is an exciting process,” he said. “You’re working to develop plans that also fulfill community needs based on the direct input of residents who truly know the neighborhoods in which they live, work and play.”

The community-driven design workshops will include the following topics, dates and locations. Refreshments will be served at each workshop. About 25 participants are expected to take part in each workshop. Out of the 25, 20 will be community residents or stakeholders while the rest will be invited professionals from throughout the city. If planning to participate, RSVP with your name, organizational affiliation (if any) and residential zip code:

  • Vacant lots at 6th and Diamond Street where residents will help design green stormwater infrastructure improvements and recreational facilities. The workshop will be held on Saturday, March 14, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Paseo Verde, 1950 N. 9th Street, Philadelphia, and is co-sponsored by Asociacion Puertorriquenos En Marcha (APM). Participants are asked to RSVP to antonio.romero@apmphila.org.

  • Memphis St. Academy Schoolyard, which will focus on greening and schoolyard improvements. The workshop will be held on Thursday, March 26, from 6 to 9 p.m., at the Memphis St. Academy, 2950 Memphis Street, Philadelphia, and is cosponsored by the New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC) and American Paradigm Schools. Participants are asked to RSVP to mallwine@nkcdc.org.

  • Hostos Charter School Campus, where community members, teachers and parents will explore ways to increase outdoor learning and play, manage stormwater, create and protect habitat and more. The workshop will be held on Thursday, April 2, from 6 to 9 p.m., at the Hostos Charter School, 6301 North 2nd Street, Philadelphia, and is co-sponsored by the Tookany/Takony-Frankford Watershed Partnership (TTF) and Aspria Inc. of Philadelphia. Participants are asked to RSVP to robin@ttfwatershed.org.  

“Event participants will include local neighborhood residents, community partners and representatives from the Philadelphia Water Department and Temple University. At the conclusion of the workshops, each small group will present their vision for the site they are working on,” said Meenar. “The goal is to develop places that, while providing green stormwater management, are locations that individuals and families can put to good recreational use — pocket parks for example. Professionally designed conceptual site plans will be developed following the workshops based on participants’ ideas and visions for the sites.”

These design workshops are part of a larger, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-funded project — Visioning Green Stormwater Infrastructure Projects through a Community-Driven Geodesign Process. The Center was awarded a $60,000 grant through the 2014-2016 EPA Urban Waters program. The project involves several additional activities, including a GIS-based site suitability analysis for potential green stormwater infrastructure projects, said Meenar.

Students from various academic programs at Temple University are involved in the project, according to Meenar, including Community and Regional Planning, Community Development, Landscape Architecture, Architecture, Environmental Engineering, Public Health, and Media and Communication.

“The entire process is expected to increase community involvement and environmental stewardship, and will be replicable in other urban areas,” he said. “We’ll be documenting the entire process, learning from what we are doing here and determining how to implement such projects at other sites within the city.”

It is essential to involve community members early in the design process, said Andrew Goodman, Community Engagement Director for the New Kensington Community Development Corporation.

“That is especially true in a case like this where local stewardship of the space will likely be necessary. If residents do not support the idea, they will not fight for it in the years to come,” he said. “I hope the outcome will be a thoughtful design concept for a series of stormwater management interventions that will double as community gathering spaces and engagement tools promoting the importance of our water system and its role in our everyday health.”

For more information about the project, visit www.phillygreendesign.wordpress.com. For more information about the Center for Sustainable Communities, visit www.temple.edu/ambler/csc.