Grid Alive at the Academy!

"Grid Alive" changed things up on Thursday, July 18, with a free show at The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. After a reception featuring food from 12th Street Catering and Stonefly IPA from Saucony Brewing Company, the crowd of 200-plus filed into the Academy’s auditorium for the main event. Guests included Beth Miller of the Community Design Collaborative and Joanne Dahme of the Philadelphia Water Department, both of whom talked about stormwater and the Soak It Up! design competition, which was the focus of an insert in the current issue of Grid. Also on hand was Gabriel Mandujano, founder of Wash Cycle Laundry Inc., which is now delivering Grid to our distribution pints throughout the city. Music was provided by Birdie Busch, accompanied by guitarist Carl Cheeseman, as well as Grid Alive regular Samantha Wittchen.

Special thanks go out to Sara Steele, Erin Johnson and everyone at the Academy of Natural Sciences for their help in making a very special evening. The next Grid Alive will take place September 5, 2013. See you there!

Meet the winners of Soak It Up!

Although Philadelphia is already a national leader in stormwater management thanks to the innovative Green City, Clean Waters program, the City is always looking for new creative and sustainable ways to improve on their practices and policies. The latest example is the Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up!, a nationally juried competition hosted by the Community Design Collaborative, Philadelphia Water Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The competition launched in early October and attracted 28 teams with more than 300 professionals from Philadelphia and across the country. A couple weeks ago, the winners were announced, which included Philadelphia companies Roofmeadow, OLIN and Urban Engineers. Tonight, the winners will be presenting their projects at the Academy of Natural Sciences during a conversation on the future of Philadelphia waterways. Tickets are already sold out, but the above video produced by GreenTreks Network (and premiering tonight!) gives a great overview of the competition process and highlights the three winners.

For more on Soak It Up! look for a special insert in our August issue done in partnership with the Community Design Collaborative. The insert will give an inside look into the competition process and some of the creative solutions proposed by the teams. 

Design Forward: Four new projects in the Community Design Collaborative’s queue

Each year the Collaborative provides more than 30 service grants to nonprofits. The grants provide organizations with the predevelopment design services necessary to getting their projects off the ground. Below are four of the latest projects from the Collaborative, all offering a unique vision for improving a community. 
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A Room with a View: Dickinson Square Park is getting more scenic with a long-awaited makeover

Thirty years ago, South Philadelphia’s Dickinson Square Park was a mess. “Cans were throughout the whole park. Dog poop was absolutely everywhere. It was a dump,” says Ron Cohen, former president of Friends of Dickinson Square. Cohen has had a third-floor view of the park since his family moved into their apartment in the 1980s. Over the years, his view has improved. The Friends of Dickinson Square keep up the general maintenance, and now the well-used community space is getting a facelift with help from the Collaborative.
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Green Edge: Community leader Maureen Tate explains how Cedar Park residents reclaimed their neighborhood

Since 2003, the all-volunteer Cedar Park Neighbors have worked with the Collaborative to devise a long-term vision for regaining control of blighted segments of their diverse community. Maureen Tate, longtime resident and former vice president of Cedar Park Neighbors, has been active in those efforts from the beginning, and sees them as both a success story and a work in progress.
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Unpaved Paradise: Schuylkill River Park is being redesigned, starting with the entrance

The former site of ’70s-era warehouses and an impound lot for towed cars, the Schuylkill River Park is now one of Southwest Center City’s largest green spaces. While the park boasts multiple fields, courts, a community garden and recreation center, time and frequent use have qualified this space for a makeover.
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Community Effort Innovative: Neighborhood-based design leads park renovations

Wissahickon Neighbors Park has a history of redevelopment. Situated on the corner of Terrace and Hermit Streets in Manayunk, the park is built on the site of a church that burned down in 1971. Following the fire, the city bought the land and built the park in 1976. As one of the first small neighborhood playgrounds in the city, Wissahickon Neighbors Park was originally considered to be a highly innovative use of space. But since its construction and major renovations in 1994, the park has been largely untouched.      
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Farmer’s Delight: Nic Esposito, co-founder of Philly Rooted and developer of the Walnut Hill Community Farm, explains how the Collaborative helped make his farm a masterpiece

In my experience creating urban farms, the conflict I have most often faced is between the desire for high-end craftsmanship and the need to just get the project going. I’ll be the first to admit that the community organizer in me usually errs on the side of the latter. But with the Walnut Hill Community Farm, the Collaborative’s consulting helped Philly Rooted attain this elusive equilibrium.
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Maximum Utility: Highly efficient low-income housing comes to East Parkside Historic District

West Philadelphia’s Parkside Historic District is known for its architectural diversity. The streets feature Victorian homes, turn-of-the-century Flemish-style structures, and buildings inspired by intricate Dutch and German designs. But now there’s a new architecture in town. In September 2009, the 4200 block of W. Stiles Street made history with the opening of some of Philadelphia’s first green-designed, low-income housing.
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Little Green Giants: The Sheridan Street Houses are changing the face of affordable housing

The 1800 Block of Sheridan Street in North Philadelphia defies the expectations of what affordable housing looks like. The homes aren’t suburban style, semi-detached houses, or the 1950s high-rises they replaced.  Instead, you’ll find a block of sleekly designed, eco-friendly homes.
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Senior Class: Mt. Tabor Cyber Village provides a green haven for North Philadelphia’s over-55 crowd

The yellow-painted halls of Mt. Tabor Cyber Village looks more like a college dorm than a senior living center. Apartments are decorated with welcome mats and doorhangers, and residents have personalized the individual shelves outside their doors. There’s a computer lab, fitness center and community room on the first floor. And each of the four floors boast a shared laundry area and common room where residents can read, play cards, watch TV or just hang out. Being 55 or older never looked more fun.
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Community Design Collaborative: Letter from the director

Dear GRID Reader,

The Community Design Collaborative, like you, believes in building communities with strong futures. In 1991, a group of dedicated and self-described “anarchist architects” created the Collaborative to meet a critical need. In the 20 years since then, we have helped community organizations imagine their highest hopes for their neighborhoods.

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