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Fairmount Park Conservancy: The FDR Park Plan

Geography Pennsylvania

Reinvestment Fund financing is supporting the rehabilitation and transformation of FDR Park’s historic guardhouse and adjacent stables into a new “Welcome Center,” as well as the construction of a new destination playground called Pattison Playground.

FDR Park has been an important community asset in South Philadelphia for more than 100 years. On any given day, children, adults, and families meet, play, picnic, and soak up the sights and sounds of nature’s beauty in the 348-acre park. It’s a valued destination, but weather and normal wear and tear have left the park needing upgrades and repairs.

To preserve the park for future generations, the Fairmount Park Conservancy, a 501c3 nonprofit that leads and supports efforts to improve Philadelphia’s parks, will lead a large-scale renovation project to make FDR Park more inviting and usable, while addressing some frequent flooding areas in the park.

These two projects are the first of a larger $250 million master plan to make long-term investments that will make the FDR Park more inviting and accessible for community residents and address longstanding flooding issues that are only getting worse due to climate change. In addition, the master plan includes newly renovated buildings, dozens of new athletic fields and courts, a great lawn, and miles of trails.

Fairmount Park Conservancy operates separately from the city government; it was formed to do program implementation, private fundraising, and manage capital. The project will take over a decade to complete, using city, state, and private funds. Reinvestment Fund provided $5.4 million and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. provided $2.4 million, totaling $7.8 million in total financing to bridge city and state contracts and grants that pay on a delayed timeline.

As part of the planning phase, the program team sought input from community stakeholders. In an impressive out-turning, nearly 3,000 community members and stakeholders, speaking seven languages, offered feedback on a reimagined FDR park.

The need for a public-facing Welcome Center was among the top recommendations. In addition, the project will focus on the transformation of a 5,500 square-foot guardhouse into a shared co-working space for community organizations that deliver park programming; the activation of a 3,600 square-foot courtyard as a one-stop shop for park users with restrooms, a staffed information center, and equipment rentals; and the restoration of the stables into a 4,000 square-foot cafe and 6,700 square-foot event space overlooking Pattison Lagoon that can support rentals and community gatherings.

The 2-acre iconic Pattison Playground for younger park guests will consist of 93,000 square-feet of improvements, such as custom play equipment, climbers, and associated structural footings. Amenities include a: picnic pavilion, giant swing set, climbing gym, and water fountain.

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The FDR Park Plan offers a once-in-a generation opportunity to reimagine a historic Olmsted Park to serve 21st century Philadelphians. The FDR Park Plan is a project in partnership with Fairmount Park Conservancy, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the Friends of FDR Park.

Currently, FDR has a small playground on a piece of land that is often wet due to being built over marshland. The new play space, tucked in the curve of the Pattison Lagoon, was designed by the firm WRT around the theme of “wander and wonder.” The design, in parts, resembles spacious bird cages and is surrounded by shady canopy trees, benches, and a picnic area.

While the park functions as a regional destination, its South Philadelphia location is a diverse neighborhood adorned by dense, rowhouse neighborhoods home to Latino, Asian, Black, and white residents across various income levels. In addition, the park is home to a longstanding Cambodian and Southeast Asian food market that recently received funding from the city to make the market a permanent part of FDR Park.

FDR Park is the only large-scale park in the city with a direct connection to a subway line and only minutes from Center City. In addition, it is the only estuary park in the City of Philadelphia’s system, creating the opportunity for a marsh landscape and diversity of species.

In 2000, the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places added the park to their list of historical places.

Learn more about the plan here.

For more information, contant:

Elizabeth Frantz
Senior Director and Philadelphia Market Leader, Lending & Investments

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