Carpenter Green, a years-long labor of love for Lauren Vidas and the South of South Neighborhood Association to turn some vacant properties at the northwest corner of 17th and Carpenter streets into green recreation space, is inching toward completion.
On Thursday, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson introduced a bill that would rezone the properties, which are currently empty and zoned for residential and commercial use, for park space.
Even though the properties are still owned by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, Vidas, who is now the president of SOSNA, said that rezoning them now is important to keep up the momentum and to facilitate fundraising. She said the rezoning is an assurance to the community that the property won’t be taken away and repurposed for something like new condominiums.
SOSNA currently manages the space under an urban-gardening agreement with PRA. It has so far managed to raise about $75,000 toward the construction of a park at the site. The Goldenberg Group, which developed the new Carpenter Square townhomes diagonal from Carpenter Green, has committed $50,000 in matching funds to help SOSNA get across the finish line. Maser Consulting is contributing design work free of charge. SOSNA is also looking to see whether there’s any money available from the city.
Still, the finish line isn’t exactly in sight.
“This isn’t a one-year project,” Vidas said. “We don’t have a millionaire who’s going to come in and build the park for us.”
Vidas said the site is some of the last open space in the South of South and Graduate Hospital neighborhoods, where residential development has flourished in recent years. Vidas has been trying to create a park at the site since 2008.
During the first phase of construction, SOSNA is likely to keep the property closed off most of the time, but to activate the space with events. Later, it will be an open park, planted with native species that don’t require a lot of active maintenance.
After introducing the rezoning bill, Councilman Johnson saluted Vidas for spearheading the park effort.
“My constituents have been working hard to plan, fund and create a beautiful green space for their neighborhood,” Johnson told PlanPhilly, through a spokesman. “I worked with SOSNA on this process for over a year. It is good to know that this rezoning will make sure their hard work pays off and that Carpenter Green remains a place for residents to gather and play.”