A seasonally exciting backdrop for community gathering and interpretive education
Located in Philadelphia, 2.5 miles north of Center City on a former manufacturing site, Hancock Playground has been an active recreational site for nearly a century. It sits in the heart of Olde Kensington, a neighborhood tightly packed with rowhomes and a diverse demographic shifting heavily towards young families. The site contains a recreation center building, playground, swimming pool, basketball courts, and sports field.
The project design intent was trifold: providing creative play and fitness experiences for all ages, increasing urban green space, and making a welcoming place for neighbors from all walks of life. With a variety of new equipment and renovated spaces for flexible programming, improvements offer amenities for a range of abilities and ages. An increased amount of seating, including ADA accessible benches and fixed tables, establishes a comfortable socializing space and encourages gathering at this now bustling neighborhood center.
A key project goal was to utilize this established public facility to deliver high-functioning, biodiverse green space in a densely populated urban neighborhood. Existing shade trees were strategically integrated into the design and preserved during construction. To reduce urban heat island, manage stormwater, and increase carbon sequestration, eleven canopy and twelve understory trees were planted, alongside 145 shrubs and 1070 native perennials and grasses. Environmental impacts of the project include improved air quality, regeneration of habitat for important pollinators, and the creation of a seasonally exciting backdrop for community gathering and interpretive education.
Site improvements include a welcoming entrance with vibrant pavement paint that weaves playfully into the site, a new playground that accommodates all ages, an outdoor fitness area for teens, adults, and elderly neighbors, and a neighborhood lawn for outdoor dining, gathering, and leisure activities. Newly resurfaced basketball courts with spectator and player seating provide another opportunity for active recreation. Essential outdoor amenities were installed throughout the site, such as benches, tables, trash and recycling receptacles, bicycle racks, informational signage, and a bottle-filling station/drinking fountain. Reduction of impervious surfaces and installation of native plants have created an environmentally healthy hub for the surrounding multi-generational community, bolstering the local ecosystem in a dense urban area.
Local neighbors were key collaborators for the design team in developing a design that met every day needs for their families, increased green space, and expanded outdoor activities for all ages. Integrating multi-generational community input throughout the design process strengthened Hancock as a genuine neighborhood hub. Opening during the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the value of this transformed space to safely bring people together in a healthy outdoor place, promoting environmental resiliency and social equity.