Northwest Neighbors of Germantown members, Philadelphia University students and local landscape-architecture professionals met this week to discuss the potential impact of two major construction projects underway in the neighborhood’s “Pulaskitown” area.
At Wednesday’s meeting, neighbors and students weighed in on the “Kelly Green” grounds initiative and the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s pending demolition of the nearby Queen Lane Apartments building.
Christopher Mendel, of the Andropogon Associates landscape-architecture firm, helped moderate the discussions.
He said his firm hoped to inspire attendees to fight for what they want to see in their community, much like they did with the Potter’s Field issue at the Queen Lane Apartments site.
“This is an opportunity for you guys to talk about what are the goals and values of these places that designers need to take to heart,” Mendel said.
“No plan has any hope of success without it being loved by you guys,” he continued. “You took back your Potter’s Field. Now, you need to define what you want there. We can’t solve these issues, but we can give you some inspiration.”
As part of a class project, landscape-architecture students from Philadelphia University researched the two sites and presented their findings on Wednesday.
Attendees participated in two break-out sessions where they discussed potential impacts of the projects.
Then, they voted on the issues of most importance to the community; topics included safety, attracting businesses and vendors and preserving Germantown’s history.
Philadelphia University junior Nicole Lugo said the forum helped her better understand residents’ concerns.
“It was really good for them to talk about what I think their main concern is, and that’s basically how the housing is going to be arranged, and how the whole space is going to come together,” she said. “It was important just to hear them speak directly to us.”
Anita Collins, a six-year resident of southwest Germantown, said she left the meeting feeling more optimistic about the projects’ potential.
“We accomplished a lot because we got to voice our opinion about PHA and the John Kelly School and what’s going to happen here,” she said. “I’m very optimistic, especially about PHA, because they are constantly in meetings with us about this. That’s a sign to me that they care about what we think.”
While the meeting served as more of a brainstorming session, Mendel said residents may be able to translate some of the ideas discussed into real changes to project designs.
“The PHA knows that they own the place and they can do whatever they want to do,” he said. “But, the issues that were brought to the table here by the community, and by the designers, are real issues.
“I think there are some fairly simple fundamental hooks of landscape and urban design that can really make the current space much better.”