North Philly’s Fotterall Square gets $3.5 million dollar upgrade

The park is a safe haven for the neighborhood and a rallying point that hasn’t had a major redo in over a half century.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and City Council President Darrell Clarke (both center) attend the groundbreaking at the revamped Fotterall Square Park. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and City Council President Darrell Clarke (both center) attend the groundbreaking at the revamped Fotterall Square Park. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

A historic North Philadelphia park is getting a $3.5 million overhaul as part of the city’s Rebuild initiative.

Fotterall Square Park in the Fairhill neighborhood along the 2400 block of North 11th Street hasn’t been given a major facelift in more than a half century, according to Rebuild head Kira Strong. She said plans call for everything from new benches to a mini soccer pitch as part of the overhaul. Other upgrades include a brand new basketball court, new playground, and even new trees.

Funds from the city’s beverage tax will pay for the park work. Mayor Jim Kenney said the money will be spent on improvements that will benefit the neighborhood for years to come.

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Council President Darrell Clarke knows the space well as it’s in his district. He said the park is an anchor for the neighborhood that has been a safe space for many people over the years.

“I don’t care what your issues are, you came here to enjoy yourself. You came here to have fun, you came here to recreate, you came here with the neighborhood family, blood family,” he said. “Being able to put $3.5 million here is more important than putting it on the parkway as far as I’m concerned.”

Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke speaks during the announcement of a $3.5 million overhaul of Fotterall Square Park. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

El Amor Mapenzi Brawne Ali is better known as Miss El in the neighborhood. She comes to the park every day to have her lunch and cleans up the place because it’s important to her and her neighbors. At age 85, she believes the park redo was missing one thing.

“We don’t have a water park, but I bought five hoses yesterday, We’re going to put one up,” she quipped.

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She got serious in saying that the park helps keep children out of trouble, but the facilities need to be expanded to attract teens who are not coming to the park and are otherwise getting into trouble.

Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said her department is still mourning the death of one of their workers who got caught in the crossfire of a shooting incident last week, but parks are designed to be the safe haven that young people need.

“This is exactly where young people should be. This is exactly where young people should come. They should come here without guns, but they should come to sites like Thornhill Square and be in nature, be in a space where recreation is the top priority for them in their young lives,” she said. She said projects like this are “absolutely what is going to change the future of our city, the power of public spaces, the powers of parks, playgrounds, recreation centers, and the power they will have to change the trajectory of the young lives of the people who will be served by them.”

So far, 10 Philly recreation centers have had complete makeovers, 12 are in progress and 35 more are in the design phase for the Rebuild initiative.

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