Coming in 2019: New Life for Germantown Civic Spaces
The City of Philadelphia is investing in civic spaces in the Central Germantown commercial district. If you’re one of the many people who live, shop, work, or visit Germantown, you may have heard about two improvement projects taking shape. Both projects are rooted in community input and fulfill a longstanding, broadly shared desire to support the neighborhood’s institutions, parks, and businesses with renewed public spaces. Once completed, these civic spaces will enhance vitality and support continued growth of the commercial corridor.
Maplewood Mall was transformed into a pedestrian street more than 40 years ago, but maintenance has not kept pace with need. The Planning Commission is coordinating the design and reconstruction of this unique public space, with a goal of supporting business growth and creating useful, beautiful space for community events. The reconstruction will be funded with neighborhood commercial corridors capital funding administered by Philadelphia's Commerce Department.
Maplewood Mall will be completely rebuilt with high-quality materials, while maintaining the street’s pedestrian-friendly qualities. Improvements include:
Fully rebuilt street, sidewalks, and plazas
New lighting, street trees, and plants
Bicycle racks, seating, and public art
The landscape plan for the mall includes short concrete seat walls, which will be adorned with a mosaic of tiles, handmade by residents. The walls and tiles will show a wood-grain texture, to reference the block’s use as a lumberyard in the 1850s. Most of the materials are inspired by wood and metal, and the plants will look natural and lush.
The plaza at Greene Street will offer an amphitheater space with plenty of places to sit and room for neighborhood events, such as concerts.
The Germantown Avenue entrance will be modified to allow clear sight lines into the plaza from the Avenue, drawing visitors in with brick pavers and lush gardens.
Maplewood Mall has been fully designed. This project is expected to be advertised for bids from contractors in February 2019, with the contract awarded and construction beginning later that Spring. The new mall is expected to open in the summer of 2020.
Matt Wysong, Senior Planner
The City is also transforming a well-worn corner plaza into Chelten Greene, a vibrant gateway to Vernon Park. The existing 30-year-old plaza is in poor physical condition. It’s sunken rear section tends to collect litter and the plaza doesn’t connect directly to Vernon Park, even though the two open spaces are next to one another.
Since the deteriorating plaza needed to be replaced, we decided to take the opportunity design a better plaza by talking to nearby residents, business owners, and other interested citizens. We held a design workshop, an on-site meeting, and a public meeting to vote on design concepts. This outreach process revealed four guiding principles:
Create a gateway into Vernon Park and the Chelten Avenue business district
Create a plaza space that feels larger, safer, and more open
Provide adequate bus shelter space
Connect the plaza to Vernon Park, both physically and visually.
Since then, the Planning Commission has worked through final design while seeking input and approval from the Streets Department, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Parks and Recreation. Roughly half of project costs will be funded with neighborhood commercial corridors capital funding administered by the Commerce Department. The remainder will be funded by a grant from PennDOT for smaller-scale transportation projects.
The plaza will be leveled out, with raised planting beds added along the existing building wall. A large, new bus shelter will be added along with plenty of seating.
A flexible space at the Chelten Avenue end will accommodate food vendors while leaving room for pedestrians and tables.
A new entrance to Vernon Park will be created at the north end of the plaza.
This project is expected to be advertised for bids from contractors in March of 2019, with the contract awarded and construction beginning later that Spring. The new plaza is expected to open in early 2020.
Ian Hegarty, Community Planner