A new and a renovated park will enhance the south side of Center City

The neighborhoods on the lower end of Center City are some of the most crowded neighborhoods in downtown.  Graduate Hospital (west of Broad) and Hawthorne (just east of Broad) have very little open green space.  But both neighborhoods are about to see the addition of attractive and functional parks.  In Graduate Hospital, it is the renovation of Julian Abele Park, at 22nd and Carpenter Streets, and in Hawthorne it is the creation of an entirely new park, at 12th and Catharine Streets, called simply enough Hawthorne Park.

Julian Abele Park opened in 2008, on the site of an empty lot on 22nd Street, between Montrose and Carpenter Streets.  It currently consists of a grass lawn, some benches, a wooden fence, and some old-fashioned lights.  The park is named after famed architect Julian Abele, the first African-American to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture, who designed the Central Library and Family Courts Building on the Ben Franklin Parkway; the original campus of Duke University in North Carolina; and originally thought of the concept of the current Philadelphia Museum of Art Building.  There is a large mural on the side of one of the two rowhomes, that line the east side of the park, dedicated to Abele and his legacy.

There were always plans by the South of South Neighborhood Association (SOSNA) and the Friends of Julian Abele Park to have a more extensive and useful design for community activities.  After years of meetings (I was at the original community meeting for the park in 2007), the community members settled on a plan that would create a small stage along the eastern edge of the park, with benches along a curved path in the middle of the park, a couple of tables with chairs, trees, flowers, shrubs, and a trellis over some of the benches closest to 22nd Street.  Most of the space would be a lawn with room for people to view the stage.  There would be two paths leading to the sidewalk at the corners of 22nd & Montrose and 22nd & Carpenter and a service alleyway on the eastern side, behind the stage, for maintenance vehicles.  The sides would have a wrought iron fence, along the sidewalk, on all three sides.  The most interesting feature, however, would be a stone gate, on the 22nd & Carpenter corner entrance, that would resemble the Duke University Chapel, which Abele designed.  This gate is designed by artist Chris Wheeler (not the Phillies announcer, however).  As if all this isn’t enough, a developer has proposed replacing the rowhome with the Julian Abele mural with a modern four-storey apartment building with a cafe on the first floor that would have outdoor seating facing the park.  That plan sounds cool, but would mean the elimination of the mural.  It’s not certain if they could repaint the mural somewhere nearby or not.  Anyway, the construction of the park improvements are scheduled to begin in July.

Hawthorne Park is entirely new and is currently under construction at 12th and Catharine Streets, in the middle of the Hawthorne neighborhood east of Broad.  The name Hawthorne comes from the school, named after poet Nathaniel Hawthorne, at 12th and Fitzwater Streets (the school is now luxury condos).  The park site was once part of the Martin Luther King Homes, a highrise housing project that was imploded in 1999 and rebuilt with low-rise townhouses.  The park will be surrounded by those rowhomes on the north and west sides, across the street along two side streets.  The park was part of the original plan for the redevelopment of the housing project, which just completed its final phase.  The Philadelphia Housing Authority, later, considered selling the land to raise some cash during a previous budget crunch, but complaints from neighborhood residents and some elected officials caused them to reconsider and planning for the park began a few years ago (I was, also, at one of the first community meetings for that).  The landscape architects for Hawthorne Park are Lager Raabe Skafte and the cost is approximately $2.2 million.

The new park will have several brick paths amidst a grass lawn.  The pathways will have stone walls along some parts that will act as seating areas.  Part of the park and paths will be raised for possible neighborhood events and performances visible from the lawn in the middle of the park.  There will be granite stairs at the corner of 12th and Catharine and a low wall along part of the sidewalk.  The park will have benches, lighting, and trees and shrubs.  And like with Julian Abele Park, Hawthorne Park will have a wonderful view of the Center City skyline.  Construction is well underway for Hawthorne Park and should be done within the next few months.

Both these parks are in areas that are experiencing a lot of new development and seem likely to add to that development by increasing demand in these areas.  There are numerous townhouses being built near Julian Abele Park, not to mention plans to renovate the large Frankford Chocolate Factory, at 22nd Street and Washington Avenue, into apartments.  There are, also, several townhouses and small apartment buildings being built near Hawthorne Park, which is also a block away from 777 South Broad Street and a couple blocks from a proposed new apartment development at Broad and South Streets.  This crowded area of the city has seen several other park developments in recent years, including the soon to be expanded Schuylkill River Park, a nice playground at 15th and Catharine Streets, and a new spray park at 10th and Lombard Streets.

If you’re thinking about buying or selling a home or investment property (houses or condos) in these neighborhoods, feel free to contact me at gabriel@thecondoshops.com or check out my Facebook realtor page, Gabriel G. Philly Realtor, or my Twitter page, @GabrielGPhilaRE.  Also, you can find nearby listings and neighborhood information on our Condo Shop website, www.thecondoshops.comour Condo Shop Facebook page, The Condo Shop, or our Condo Shop Twitter page, @The_Condo_Shop, not to mention our snazzy new Pinterest page.  Also, you can look at the links that I have to the Friends of Julian Abele Park and Lager Raabe and Skafte’s website and my pictures of the parks below.

Aerial rendering of Hawthorne Park

Rendering of entrance of Hawthorne Park, @ 12th & Catharine Streets, shows granite steps

Rendering of activity in the middle of Hawthorne Park

New Hawthorne Park, from Fawn & Catharine Streets

View of Hawthorne Park, from 12th & Catharine Streets, shows MLK townhomes and city skyline

New granite stairs and brick pathway leading from 12th & Catharine Streets

New brick pathway, with granite curb, leads into Hawthorne Park from 12th Street

Looking south on 12th Street, towards the new Hawthorne Park

Former Nathaniel Hawthorne School, now condominiums

New playground on Catharine Street, near 15th Street

Rendering of Julian Abele Park plan

Monumental gate to Julian Abele Park @ corner of 22nd and Carpenter

Rendering of proposed building @ 2132 Montrose Street

View of Julian Abele Park, from 22nd & Carpenter Streets, shows mural and city skyline

View of Julian Abele Park, from 22nd & Montrose Streets

View of Julian Abele Park, from Montrose Street, looking southwest

Looking west, into Julian Abele Park, from Carpenter Street

Mural dedicated to architect Julian Abele

Plan of Julian Abele Park improvements, seen on this board on 22nd Street

New development on the 2100 block of Carpenter Street, adjacent to Julian Abele Park


About gabrielcgottlieb

I am a real estate agent at Long & Foster Real Estate Center City and someone who likes to write about development and urban planning in the City of Philadelphia. Contact me at Gabriel.gottlieb@LNF.com if you are interested in buying or selling a home or investment property in Philadelphia.
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4 Responses to A new and a renovated park will enhance the south side of Center City

  1. Steve says:

    Hawthorne is a tiny neighborhood only 3 blocks wide. A block east you have Palumbo Rec. Center. A block north you have Seeger Rec Center. In the neighborhood you have Hawthorne Cultural Center. Half a block east you have Baradiscino Park. Three blocks south you have Passyunk Square. In the neighborhood you have one of the city’s few pools. I think they have decent access to parks there.

    Some parts of Graduate Hospital definitely have a greater need for parks.

    • Yes, but Hawthorne itself is very crowded with no actual parks from South Street down to Washington Avenue. And most of the rec centers you mentioned only have concrete and asphalt. Plus, rec centers aren’t necessarily enough. It was hard to find a true park in that area until now.

  2. Steve says:

    Ah! I forgot to add that I enjoy your pictures and your articles! Thanks for posting, (It seems I readily comment with disagreements but forget to add my thanks, pardon.)

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