New Park coming to PHAs MLK Community

    What's the final touch after you've completely rebuilt a neighborhood, going from blight to outta sight? How about a fabulous new urban park in the center of it all.

     That's exactly what's going to happen at the Philadelphia Housing Authority's Martin Luther King Plaza, just south of Center City. The neighborhood used to be the site of an old style public housing high-rise project, but now features a combination of new public housing and high-end private market homes.

     PHA has agreed to turn over a square block of its property at 12th and Catherine Streets to the City of Philadelphia for development and maintenance of Hawthorne Park. 

      "The park was to be a part of this development in our initial design. However, with the tremendous need for affordable housing we considered building more homes on at least part of the property. When the City and Mayor Nutter found the funding necessary to build and maintain the park, we were convinced to move ahead with the plan. The park will be a great benefit to PHA residents and the entire neighborhood, now that we know it will be kept secure by the City" said PHA Executive Director Carl Greene.

      The park construction will cost $2.15 million. The State of Pennsylvania is paying about $1.4 million, with the remaining $750,000 coming from the City of Philadelphia, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the William Penn Foundation.

    Park construction will be complete in 2010, but it is not the final activity at the site. 

    PHA also plans to demolish the old community center at 12th and Fitzwater Streets to make room for 19 affordable homes for sale. These, too, will be ready in 2010. That will bring the total number of homes built by PHA at the site to 245, almost evenly divided between low-income rentals and moderate-income homeownership. 

      "The Hawthorne community serves as an example of the positive impact planned, quality, affordable housing can have on a neighborhood. Low-income families, now live next door to middle class families and upper middle class families living in $650,000 homes. This would not have been possible without this public investment," Mr. Greene said. 

            Hawthorne Park will become the 64th park in the Fairmount Park system, according to Fairmount Park Executive Director Mark Focht. 

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and PHA Executive Director Carl Greene are all smiles as they close the deal on the new park in the Hawthorne neighborhood.

Residents of the Hawthorne community have long desired and supported a new park in their neighborhood.

PHA Executive Director Carl Greene thanks state DCNR Secretary Michael DiBeradinis for his help in funding the new park; the state chipped in $1.4 million dollars equal to two-thirds of the cost of construction.

A rendering of the new park planned for 12th & Catherine Streets gives residents an idea of what to expect and an overview of the design.