Art Commission brings thorough review to handful of important built environment projects

The Philadelphia Art Commission heard details about significant ongoing built environment projects across a broad spectrum of subjects Wednesday including health care, nature and sustainability, safety and technology in public space, public art, and transportation.

The commission granted final approval to:

    •    A Barnes Foundation plan to create a 2,000 square foot kitchen.
    •    The first phase of the Bartram’s Mile riverfront project, a joint effort by Parks and Recreation/PIDC and Andropogon.
    •    Bicycle racks at the Plaza at Café Cret, Sister Cities Plaza and other Center City sites.
The commission granted conceptual approval to:

    •    Delaware River Waterfront Corporation’s plan to enhance lighting for the Spring Garden Street Connector.
    •    Plans for a new Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia family care center in South Philadelphia.
    •    Design of the Octavius Catto Memorial on the south apron of City Hall.
    •    Conservation and Installation at new location (Schuylkill Banks at Cherry Street) of AIR sculpture by Walker Hancock

CHOP family health center

The commission granted conceptual approval to a joint venture between The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the City of Philadelphia that would relocate two existing clinics ‒ a CHOP-owned pediatric primary care practice currently located in South Philadelphia, and the City-owned Health Center, which serves children and adults ‒ into one brand new building, to be constructed by Children’s Hospital on city property and outfitted by both CHOP and the City of Philadelphia. The space will also include new facilities for the South Philadelphia Branch Library and Disilvestro Rec Center.

Under the conceptual agreement, the hospital and other philanthropic sources will fully fund the construction of the new complex to house CHOP’s and the City’s existing services. The complex is slated to open by Dec. 2015.

The commissioners, while noting that the facility would be enormously beneficial for the city and the neighborhood, requested more detail on the make-up of the plaza and the park on the site, as well as more specific renderings of lighting and tree and plant specimens.


Barnes kitchen

The commissioners unanimously approved the addition of as 2,000 square foot, full service kitchen that has been approved by the Zoning Board of adjustment.

Bartram’s Mile

The commission gave final approval to the first phase of the Bartam’s Mile project, which will create new parks space and green landscape – with breathtaking skyline views – on the west side of the Schuylkill River east of 56th Street. The commission did request a bit more detail on one feature of the project, the shade pavilion.

Some background: Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, working with its primary partners PIDC, the Schuylkill River Development Corporation (SRDC), Andropogon and the John Bartram Association (JBA), is leading a process to reimagine what it is calling “Bartram’s Mile,” which is one mile of currently vacant river frontage along the western banks of the Tidal Schuylkill between Grays Ferry Avenue and 58th Street.  The Green2015 plan released by PPR in December 2010 highlights Bartram’s Mile as a major opportunity to convert publicly owned vacant land to public green space before 2015. This new open space has the potential to provide riverfront access and recreation opportunities to an underserved neighborhood as well as help restore an important watershed.

Spring Garden Connector

The commissioners conceptually approved a project that would transform the well-used, but poorly lit space beneath the Spring Garden Street overpass – site of both a busy Market-Frankford El stop and bus stop – into a brighter, more colorful and safer feeling space given a plan proposed by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation.


The concept features water-jet cut aluminum sheets along the wall near the subway entrance, lit from behind and overhead. The lighting intensity and colors will change with the time of day, or can be manually changed for special events. Other key elements: Large, pendant lights, covered with the same screening, which bathe the walls in light; LED strip lights that outline the industrial-looking structure of the bridge; curb bumpouts at the bus stops; improved sidewalks; and trees and other landscaping.


The commissioners asked that the next presentation include more details, including renderings and experimentation which shows how the lights are going to throw and how far that effect will impact the space. They also want more specifics about how the new lighting scheme will interact with the white lights that are presently in use.

spring garden panel
spring garden panel

Catto memorial

Commissioners gave conceptual approval to a new sculpture feature at City Hall, which would be a memorial to Philadelphian Octavius Catto. The art would be situated on the south apron of City Hall. Commissioners cited that this was a work in progress but said the statue of Catto needed to be heroic and they worried that the massing of the accompanying pieces of the work would make the figure of Catto look delicate. City Councilman Jim Kenney, who is promoting the project, told the commission he feels that the statue needs to be of a scale that is “close to the people, it should remain in contact with the people.”

Bicycle Racks at the Plaza at Café Cret and Sister Cities Plaza

The commission granted final approval to innovative bicycle racks that will be sited around Center City.

Last year the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and the City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy held a design competition for artist-designed bike racks. The eight finalists have been notified and now the designs are being shared with donors who have committed to installing a rack in Center City. Locations for the new racks identified in the RFP were: Sister Cities Park, Café Cret, Boathouse Row, City Hall, Penn Center Plaza, and outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Perelman Building.


Conservation and installation to a new location of AIR sculpture by Walker Hancock

scale model of Air, Walter Hancock.
Scale model of Air, Walter Hancock.

Commission gave Conservation and Installation at new location (Schuylkill Banks at Cherry Street) of AIR sculpture by Walker Hancock

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