Sustainable Business Network

2018 Public Project Finalists

On behalf of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia (SBN), the GSI Partners will be recognizing excellence in GSI for Public Projects. These are Built projects managed in large part by a public agency and/or on public property (municipal, state, federal). 


Taggart Elementary

County: Philadelphia

Watershed: Delaware District

Address: 400 West Porter Street, Philadelphia, PA

Planning/Design Team: TEND Landscapes, Trust for Public Land

Client: School District of Philadelphia

Construction/Maintenance: Rockport Construction, Philadelphia Water Department

Since its founding, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) has worked with urban communities to further its goal of ensuring that there is a park or green space within a 10-minute walk of everyone living in urban America.

TPL’s Parks for People-Philadelphia program is converting barren, deteriorated, asphalt schoolyards into green, dynamic, public playgrounds with numerous opportunities for play, learning, exercise, and connection. In 2013, TPL selected the John Taggart Elementary School, a multicultural school whose vision is to “create a nurturing, supportive environment in which children can achieve and grow.”

Prior to the project’s implementation, the entire schoolyard was asphalt, and the lower portion of the site was subject to frequent flooding, puddles, and icing, often making it unusable for recreation and outdoor activities.

TPL used its innovative participatory design process to empower students and residents to create a fun and vibrant play space, unique to their community, which could be used to inform the execution of their schoolyard vision. The 12-week process was integrated into Taggart’s curriculum and involved not only educational design sessions with students and public workshops, but also field trips, community events, public speaking, and writing, drawing and modeling exercises. About 400 children from Taggart were involved during the planning phase to brainstorm ideas and wishes for their new schoolyard. A subset of 30 students in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades made up the design team, and also participated in a stormwater education component.

The final plan combined stormwater management elements such as rain gardens and permeable multipurpose play and recreation space, with habitat enhancements and community garden beds.  Additional outdoor classroom spaces enable teachers to regularly take students outside. School and community gardens included in the design provide hands-on access to vegetables and herbs during the school’s existing healthy food programs. In total, 17 trees, 39 shrubs, and over 500 perennials and grasses were planted throughout the schoolyard.

Inviting the neighborhood to actively participate in the community engagement process has resulted in significant community buy-in. Once seen by the community as a place for unwanted activity, the Taggart schoolyard is now seen as a versatile asset.


Jose Manual Collazo Playground

County: Philadelphia

Watershed: Delaware

Address: 130-60 Westmoreland Street, Philadelphia, PA

Planning/Design Team: Stantec Consulting

Client: Trust for Public Land

Construction/Maintenance/Monitoring: Gessler Construction, Philadelphia Water Department

Located in the Fairhill neighborhood of North Philadelphia, the Jose Manual Collazo Playground was an under-utilized outdoor recreation site with nearly 99% impervious cover and scare community engagement in a section of the city where many residents still consider Puerto Rico “home.” The Trust for Public Land, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, and the Philadelphia Water Department collaborated to transform this site into an attractive community asset that reflects the cultural heritage of the neighborhood.

In addition to public meetings, the comprehensive and creative community engagement process included bilingual interviews, the recording of personal stories, and the creation of a mobile storytelling station. The station is now utilized in the community hub space adjacent to the rain garden during community celebrations and events. Mahogany and steel seatbacks engraved with images of fruits and flowers of Puerto Rico were fabricated and installed on the concrete seat walls at the rain garden, adding an additional layer of artistic and community expression. 

This high level of community engagement born out of a spirit of collaboration between the agencies involved and the surrounding community models an innovative approach to cooperation through its use of storytelling to determine the needs of the community and how the delivery of these features can secure buy-in from the neighborhood.

The new playground and recreation space features a rain garden and provides an area for a variety of species of plants to grow. Green areas with vegetative borders were added around the basketball and handball courts. This project enhances long-term climate resiliency through solutions that are multi-benefit and geographically-suitable while also creating a safe haven for play in the community.


Linwood Park

County: Montgomery

Watersheds: Indian & Cobbs Creek

Address: Linwood and Athens Avenue, Ardmore, PA

Planning/Design Team: Salt Design Studio, Studio Gaea, Yerkes Associates

Client: Township of Lower Merion

Construction/Maintenance: Puhl’s Landscaping, Inc., Lower Merion Township, Friends of Linwood Park

Home to beautifully scaled residential streets, an ethnically diverse population, and blocks of historic buildings, Ardmore surprisingly lacked sufficient public green space. As a result of persuasive and collaborative efforts between a dedicated group of neighbors and the township, Ardmore was awarded an Open Space Grant from Montgomery County in 2009. This was used to purchase the one-acre private parking lot at Linwood & Athens Avenue, and transform it into a public park.

A community-driven process yielded a design to reconnect the site with its former hydrology, topography, and habitats, while simultaneously making a place that cultivates play as a more naturalistic experience. Using water as a driving force for design, the park features two meandering dry streams and a bold, mounding landform that articulates and directs stormwater runoff.

The highly collaborative nature of this project, allowed the Design Team to identify relevant public institutions and organizations – including Lower Merion Conservancy, Belmont Hills Elementary and Household of Faith Church – as partners for fundraising, community outreach and educational campaigns. With the assistance of the Township and other partner organizations, the neighbors established a “Friends of Linwood Park” group, registered as a 501(c)(3) organization to ensure future funds for future park management.

What once was an impervious, barren site is now the green, social nexus of the neighborhood:

Linwood Park is a lively community center, theatrical venue, outdoor classroom, and versatile recreational setting. 

Winning applications will highlight the triple bottom line (environmental, social, and economic) benefits of a green infrastructure approach to stormwater management.


Click here to buy tickets to the 2018 Excellence in GSI Awards on Thursday, May 17 at FringeArts.