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New Schoolyard and Renovated Rec Center Coming to Fishtown

Improvements are coming to Fishtown with the reconstruction of two community hotspots.

The Friends of Adaire, a registered nonprofit consisting of parents, educators and community members who help provide additional resources and support for the faculty, staff and students of Alexander Adaire K-8, have announced that their school is getting a new schoolyard. Thanks to the help of City Council President Darrell Clarke, The Trust for Public Land (TPL), The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) and many others, the school will be getting a new schoolyard that will open for the public. In addition to the renovations at Adaire, the Fishtown Recreation Center will be getting a makeover as well.


Fishtown Rec/Thomas Weir

The area that will become the new Adaire schoolyard is currently a large black-top surface that shares the space with the school’s parking lot. Teachers must be parked by 8AM because the yard is locked shut during school hours, making parking for visitors difficult. Because the parking lot is also Adaire’s schoolyard, playground equipment gets thrown in the parking area, which can potentially cause damage to parked cars.


Adaire school yard/Thomas Weir

Plans for a new schoolyard at Adaire have been in the works since before Denis Devine, Communications Chair of Friends of Adaire, has been affiliated with the school. Discussions started when Council President Clarke promised money to the school in a private meeting about 3 years ago with Adaire’s then principal, Jeannette Oddo. Devine spent months calling Clarke’s office in hopes of getting that promise on record. It was not until Kate Micklow Harwan asked Clarke to attend a Fishtown Neighbors Association meeting in May 2014 and speak on the schoolyard issue that the promise of a new schoolyard was made publically.


Proposed plans for new Adaire Schoolyard/Ian Smith Design Group

But Philadephia rules and regulations restricted Clarke from funding the schoolyard directly. When this information was released, a solution was necessary to make the promise happen. PWD and the School District of Philadelphia contacted TLP about the dilemma. This is how the Fishtown Recreation Center came into the picture. The Rec has seen better days and much of the equipment there is either broken or not up to code. As a work around, Clarke promised money for renovations to the Fishtown Rec and TPL plans to match that amount to be used on renovations to the Adaire schoolyard.


Fishtown Rec/Thomas Weir

adaire schoolyard 1

Denis Devine and Adaire Principal Anna Jenkins pose with the designs of their new school yard.

“It’s a brilliant solution. The School District gets what it wants and the neighborhood gets what it wants,” Devine said

“I’m excited,” Program Manager of Trust for Public Land Danielle Denk said. “It’s really exciting coming into a community that is already on board.”

PWD has previously used parking lots and giant schoolyards as a way of helping the city drain water efficiently and effectively and has grant money to help fund the schoolyard and help solve draining problems that are polluting the Delaware River. Using modern draining techniques PWD can capture the water and prevent it from flowing into the Delaware. This new drain system will run around the perimeter of Adaire’s blacktop space and into a water capture area at the corner of East Palmer Street and East Thompson Street.


Fishtown Rec/Thomas Weir

Ian Smith, founder of Ian Smith Design Group, drafted designs for how the schoolyard could look once renovations are complete. The brainstorming began during the fall of 2014 when Smith and Friends of Adaire offered three different venues for people to come and give their ideas — it was important to give the community a voice in planning the new community space. Smith compiled various ideas that were discussed in these meetings as well as information taken from surveys conducted in classrooms and online. Smith lives just down the street from the school and is very proud of how the project is progressing.

“[The design] is a natural fit for me to give back to Fishtown,” Smith said.

The parking area will be shifted over away from the actual schoolyard areas and gated in the corner of the space. This is labeled as section 19 on the image below.

“One of the things we wanted to do was separate that out, allow the kids play area that is not mingled with the parking lot.” Devine said.

The giant fish outline will be a walking trail and sections 8-9 are going to be transformed into a sitting wall area. A nature-themed playground set is planned for section 3. Section 4 is going to be an outdoor classroom facing the tree in the yard for the older students. Over toward the big part of the fish the colorful ground is going to be a raised mound of spongy, soft surface that covers the ground of many modern playgrounds for kids to run all over. Adaire is planning to have basketball, four square and other outdoor activities in sections 11-17.


Fishtown Rec/Thomas Weir

Other elements of the design have been altered since this sketch was produced, so stay tuned for an updated version of the design and release from the Friends of Adaire coming soon.

One of the coolest things about this project is the amount work put in by both volunteers and paid professions to make this project a reality; volunteers include Ian Smith; Nate Hommel, Director of Planning and Design for University City District; Kate Zmich, Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse Director of Programs and Fun, and Devine,  of the Friends of Adaire. Paid professionals working with these volunteers are Adaire Principal Anna Jenkins; Stephanie Chioriean and Erin Hughes from the Philadelphia Water Department; Francesco Cerrai from the City’s Department of Public Projects; Tom Schweikert, architect for the School District of Philadelphia; Curtis Wilkerson, Council President Darrell Clarke’s Constituent Representative; and Danielle Denk from the Trust for Public Land.

“We are not just Adaire people, we are Fishtown people,” Devine said.

Friends of Adaire is looking to try and start breaking ground on the project at the end of the school year.

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