How can one location‐based project employ skills from across civic assets to enliven a community space and generate foot traffic through creative placemaking, thereby creating replicable strategies that can be used across sites to share community stories and activate underutilized space?
The Viola Alley project would make physical and community connection between Parkside’s Viola Street area and West Fairmount Park by locating several creative placemaking gestures within this underutilized Alley. By bringing visibility and activity to the Alley, this project would prototype new uses in empty lots and an underutilized street, tell the story of the historic neighborhood, celebrate nationally significant architecture, and provide space for music, food, and community festivities. The installation would draw literally from the improvements planned for Centennial Commons, perhaps including an entrance gate that alludes to this historic architectural detailing of the neighborhood and visually connects park and neighborhood.
Although this project involves Centennial Commons most directly, it could be the “sourdough starter” of the Commons, providing inspiration and testing a model to reclaim similar spaces around the edges of the other four sites to activate underutilized spaces with tales of the neighborhood, and a taste of future programming in the sites.
With a formal gathering place at one end of the Alley and Fairmount Park at the other, the passage could feature a mosaic timeline to tell the story of the neighborhood, potentially including a mobile app with the same information. The alley could be a linear showcase of local artist work, such as quilts and children’s art, and host block party type festivities in which the alley could host long tables for a neighborhood meal. Reading Terminal Market could partner in planning such an event, featuring local culinary experiences.
The empty parcels adjacent to the alley could include soft play space for children, stages for bands, and community gardens. Bartram’s Garden could be involved in the development of a garden, while Parks and Rec and the Free Library partners could help determine children’s programming.