Drier Ground

Venice Island's underground basin can temporarily store up to four million gallons of stormwater runoff. | Photos courtesy The Philadelphia Water Department

In the works for the better part of a decade, Venice Island opened in early October. The five-acre site is sandwiched between the Lock and Cotton Street bridges in Manayunk, and lies downhill of Manayunk’s stormwater flow, which resulted in storm-induced flooding and combined sewer overflows (CSOs). To address this problem, the Philadelphia Water Department and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation collaborated with the Manayunk Development Corporation to demolish the existing Venice Island Recreation Center and rebuild to include an underground basin that can temporarily store up to four million gallons of stormwater runoff and a pump house with a sloping green roof. The site’s other green infrastructure includes a rain garden, porous pavement and tree trenches.

The $45 million project, which was developed by local landscape architecture firm Andropogon Associates, also boasts a 250-seat theater, a spray park, an outdoor amphitheater, a basketball court, multi-purpose meeting spaces and public art. Buell Kratzer and Powell (BKP) was the architect for the Performing Arts Center, and Hazen and Sawyer was the architect for the pump house.

“People from all over the City and the region will come here to take part in weekend events, see a show, get a little exercise or even learn about how the city is addressing stormwater management,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “This project is the result of a collective vision to transform this site into an incredible community asset.”