On Wednesday night, members of the Manayunk Neighborhood Council voted to support a conceptual plan that seeks to raise visibility and access to Pretzel Park in Manayunk.
Representatives from the Community Design Collaborative [CDC] – a Philadelphia-based outfit providing nonprofits with pro bono planning and architectural efforts – were present to summarize design efforts to date.
Jesse Forrester, a landscape architect from Jonathan Alderson Landscape Architects of the CDC, related the details of the plan.
Connecting the park to Main Street
Forrester began the presentation by defining the project as the “Pretzel Park Connection” – emphasizing that the plans under consideration are designed to enhance the park’s status by connecting it to Main Street in Manayunk and, ultimately, the Schuylkill River trail.
Looking at existing conditions, Forrester noted an “awkward” relationship between the park and Main St. The SEPTA Norristown line’s rail platform, which looms over Cresson St., contributes to this loss of visibility.
“You can’t tell there’s a park,” he observed.
With this central problem identified, Forrester said that attention is being turned to Cotton St. – which connects the park to Main St. – in order to “activate” the corridor, thus giving “the indication that this street connects to something beyond.'”
Forrester mentioned that there are several ideas in play for attracting visitors to the park – murals, signage, and highly visible crosswalks among them – but the plan with the biggest public impact is a proposal to change Cotton St. into a unidirectional street.
Forrester suggested that the removal of one driving lane on Cotton St. would contribute to the park’s draw and would have no effect on already-taxed on-street parking in Manayunk.
As designed, the Cotton St. initiative would direct traffic away from Main St. toward Cresson St.
Speaking to the effects of the reorientation was Frank Montgomery, a project manager at the Traffic Planning and Design, Inc. and resident of Manayunk.
“What we looked at,” he said, “was how to make this safer for pedestrians without destroying traffic.”
Speaking to the plans as submitted, Montgomery reiterated that no parking would be lost, and that a one-way street could be a means of calming vehicular usage without resorting to traffic countermeasures such as curb bump-outs.
The next step, according to Forrester, would be to gauge community support and establish a more involved design, in consultation with the public and leaders of Manayunk business and civic associations.
Noting that the plans as submitted are conceptual – not construction – designs, Forrester said that they will serve as a starting point for fundraising.
“They’re not final, but they are a vision that will hopefully generate funding to bring this project into realty,” he stated.
Kevin Smith, President of MNC, indicated that a potential move forward would be to secure funding for a planning grant in order to finalize the design.
“If there’s consensus that this is a good idea,” said Smith, “we can find some money to take it to the next step and get some more people involved.”
Joshua Cohen, a newly appointed special assistant to 4th District Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., was on hand at the meeting to introduce himself to the membership and bestow the Councilman’s blessing on the project.
“The Councilman is in absolute support of it – he thinks it’s a great project,” noted Cohen.
Moreover, Cohen indicated a possibility for assistance in securing funds for the design.
“Pending a closer review of some plans,” he said, “[Councilman Jones] would be happy to make a financial commitment of capital dollars.”