Opening date announced for Philadelphia’s Turrell Skyspace

One of the community’s most well respected neighbors dropped in on the Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA) Board meeting Thursday night. CHCA Board members received a brief presentation from the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting (CHFM) concerning the plans for their new meetinghouse, now in the beginning phases of construction at 20 East Mermaid Lane. The project is expected to be completed by May 1, 2013.

“We’re delighted by the support of the community,” remarked CHFM member, Jean Warrington.

The new meetinghouse will feature a James Turrell Skyspace in its meeting room. Turrell is a world renown artist whose works concern light, space and perception. His Skyspaces are light installations which open directly to the sky via a retractable roof on rails and and are intended to induce slow, deeply meditative contemplation.

CHFM received a donation from the association, which Warrington said will go directly towards a part of the new James Turell Skyspace.

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“I hope everyone realizes what a huge deal this is,” commented board member, Richard Snowden. Snowden said bringing a Turrell Skyspace to the neighborhood is “nothing short of incredible.”

Stage one of construction is well underway. A deep hole has been dug on the grounds for both the meetinghouse basement and two storm water retainment basins. The basins are a critical component of the project’s storm water retention system, which will enable run-off from the building’s roof top as well as its parking lot to be collected, purified and released slowly into the Wissahickon watershed.

CHFM member, Phil Jones stated that despite the property’s history as overflow parking for the former Yarnall Waring Company factory, no toxic waste had been found when the asphalt was removed.

The property is bounded on the east by a portion of Fairmount Park. Jones shared that CHFM received a $200,000 grant from the William Penn Foundation this spring for work on “developing our connection to the park” through partnerships with Friends of the Wissahickon, Wissahickon East project and the Cresheim Trail Project. “At one time that was a very active part of the park. We’d like to see it active again,” he said.

The building will meet the platinum level of Leadership in Environmental Energy and Design (LEED), though CHFM will forgo official certification in order to save the costs involved in the certification process.

Board members applauded CHFM’s fundraising efforts. Warrington said the project committee, Building in the LIGHT, has raised $3.5 million which is $500,000 more than its original goal. CHFM will continue fundraising in order to pay for landscaping, photovoltaic solar panels and to provide for an endowment which will enable the Meeting to pay for maintenance and repair costs. CHFM will also be seeking assistance with docents and tour guides.

Snowden said CHFM is achieving a project “beyond the wildest dreams” of community. He noted that the building site had long been one of the real problem properties in Chestnut Hill.

CHFM will again be presenting its new meetinghouse plans as part of the 2012 Design Philadelphia Festival. The event will be held on October 11 at 7 p.m. inside the Meetinghouse at 4th and Arch Streets.

AVI Panel

The association will be hosting a panel discussion on the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) and real estate taxes to “provide an overall wealth of knowledge on the subject,” said Brien Tilley. The objective of AVI is to reform the current property taxes so that all city property is fairly assessed at 100 percent of its market rate. Tilley stated that three members of City Council have expressed interest in taking part in the panel – Cindy Bass, David Oh and Bill Green.

While a date for the panel discussion has not yet been set, CHCA is looking to hold the event in early or mid-November. The panel will meet on a date separate from CHCA’s regular board and committee meetings.

Crime and security

Board member Chris Padova reported that Councilwoman Bass is planning to host a Crime and Safety meeting in Chestnut Hill to hear security concerns from residents and business owners. Joe Corrigan, Bass’ Director of Communications confirmed that such a meeting will take place in the future, but a date has not yet been set. CHCA is also investigating how to secure funding for surveillance cameras along Germantown Avenue. Padova said Councilwoman Bass’s office has indicated that they will help with that process.

Tilley noted that CHCA is looking to work together with the Chestnut Hill Business Association (CHBA) in a “concerted effort” to combat burglaries. He said hiring private security patrol officers is one option that will be actively explored.

Other Business

On October 16, the community is invited to take part in a presentation concerning the Willow Grove Avenue Bridge at the St. Martins SEPTA Regional Rail station. According to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the project’s scope includes replacement of the existing structure with a new single span stringer bridge, as well as an electrification barrier over the railway track. Options will be presented for community vote.

The association will have a table set up at the coming Chestnut Hill Fall for the Arts Festival and will be highlighting the community’s designation by Philadelphia Magazine as “Best Main Street Shopping”. CHCA will distribute temporary discount cards good for purchases in the community, to better give folks an idea of the benefits which come with CHCA membership. The festival will be held October 7 along Germantown Avenue.

CHCA Board member, Jane Piotrowski reported that the association has raised $38,500 for its annual Black and White Gala. The gala will take place on October 20, from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Chestnut Hill Hospital, which is one of the gala sponsors. Board member, Richard Snowden has suggested adding CHCA membership certificates in the event’s silent auction gift baskets.

CHCA will host its annual Circle of Trees event on November 16. The tree lighting ceremony marks the start of the neighborhood’s winter holiday season. Board member Julia Byrne said the happening was still in the early planning stages.

Planning continues for the Chestnut Hill Holiday House Tour, scheduled for December 1. So far, there are at least four participants who will host tours of their homes.

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