Behold the proposed redesign of Columbus Square Park

A conceptual design has been completed for the planned remodeling of the Columbus Square Park, which would include a much larger dog run, more green space and a smaller athletic field.

Check it out.

Looking from 12th and Reed. Images by the Community Design Collaborative
Looking from 12th and Reed. Images by the Community Design Collaborative

Highlights of the redesign of the park, which takes up the entire block bounded by 12th, 13th, Wharton and Reed streets,  also include:

  • a redesigned “patio” area along 13th Street
  • paths that would connect all corners of the park
  • a shorter fence around the field, which would be reduced by about 25 percent
  • a redesigned water feature with a timer in the playground area
  • refurbished surfacing in the play areas
  • larger dog runs with anti-bacterial “K-9 grass” for small and large dogs with separate entrances
  • an open lawn on the Reed Street side
  • sprucing up the rec center on the northeast corner
The "patio" on 13th Street would be divided into "rooms."
The “patio” on 13th Street would be divided into “rooms.”


The current patio, which would also get pedestrian-scale lighting.
The current patio, which would also get pedestrian-scale lighting.

The Community Design Collaborative, which awarded the Columbus Square Advisory Council a grant for its design services last March, estimated that the project would cost about $2.8 million.

The underused storage building near the current dog park, aka the roundhouse, would be demolished to make way for an improved public entrance at 12th and Reed. They had explored turning it into a concession stand but apparently it turned out to not be feasible.

Pic from Oct. 2012 when the rain garden at 12th and Reed was being constructed. The roundhouse would go and a new entrance would be built here.
Pic from Oct. 2012 when the rain garden at 12th and Reed was being constructed. The roundhouse would go and a new entrance would be built here.
View from Reed Street. The huge fence would be reduced to four feet, and it will get pushed toward the field to make room for an open lawn and "nature walk."
View from Reed Street. The huge fence would be reduced to four feet, and it will get pushed toward the field to make room for an open lawn and “nature walk.”

Ilene Wilder, president of the advisory council’s board, said the project has “personified the mission of the Community Design Collaborative: to bring community together through design.”

“We had a great deal of input from our community and the Parks and Recreation Department was open to listening and collaborating with the community,” Wilder said. “In the end, together we created a beautiful community space that has a little something for everyone.  It’s a project everyone can be proud of.”

The site plan
The site plan

Wilder said she worked closely with Mark Focht, the first deputy commissioner of the city Parks and Rec Department, who has been the city liaison on the project. Now, they are collaborating to schedule a date for an official reveal. We’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, what do you think?

42 thoughts on “Behold the proposed redesign of Columbus Square Park

  • January 7, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Looks nice! I like the idea of lowering the fence and moving it into the field a bit. I’m also glad that they’re leaving a baseball and soccer field and taking some of the unused space for an open lawn area.

  • January 7, 2014 at 9:54 am

    I guess personally I’d like to see more park and less field but I do understand people do want to keep the rec field. Looks like a huge improvement over whats there now. I hope this comes to fruition in the next few years.

    • January 8, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      I personally agree that there should be more park and less field.

  • January 7, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Definitely agree that more park less field would be nice. It is at least a compromise. Looks nice, and much improved over what is there now. The lower fence in itself will change the feel by worlds.

  • January 7, 2014 at 10:44 am

    I think its a great plan provided locals input is heard. This park has been underutilized and needs to be re-adapted to better fit the needs of area residents. I might just be me, but i feel these roundhouse structures are iconic of a certain time in Philadelphia history and I wish it could be saved somehow, but I realize it may be incongruous to the new design.

    • January 8, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      I understand your concerns about not removing iconic buildings!

  • January 7, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Boo to demolishing the roundhouse! That building is unique and is a symbol of the Philly Park System. Someone needs to chain themselves to it to save it.

    • January 7, 2014 at 1:15 pm

      yeah it is, but not one person has presented a viable plan to keep it open, as far as I’m aware. Its a building that requires significant renovation and decent money for upkeep.

      For a park system on a tight budget its really just not in the cards.

      • January 8, 2014 at 10:49 pm

        Fix the roof and keep it up. Once you tear it down you can’t go back. There may not be money now, but there may be money later.

  • January 7, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Looks gorgeous! All that lush grass– delicious. it would be nothing short of a miracle if it stayed green. the ball parks are essential, but I definitely feel a smaller AND better cared for ball field space would be lovely. It doesn’t seem very economical to discard the taller fence currently in place. sure, it will look better, but let’s be realistic about the budget. A dog park with grass?- nice. Can we also place some controls about dogs doing their bizness in other parts of the park? I don’t like walking my little ones through ‘green’ areas when there’s dog pee and remnants of poop (not a dog hater in any way, I’d just like myself and my child to be able to sit in the dirt or grass without there being turd droppings).

    one last thing–wouldn’t it be great if everyone made an effort to make the park a better place- pick up trash even when it’s not yours. bring a broom, sweep a sidewalk, pick up twigs, yell at people for littering, arrange fund raisers for the civic society, etc?

    one more last thing- the new apartments at 12th and Wharton: i’m sure the owners/developers are marketing the units as “park front”, what are THEY going to do to make the park a better place? I’m sure they’re banking off the green space, maybe they should throw some green bills towards helping this plan become a reality.

    • January 8, 2014 at 3:54 pm

      Great ideas.

      I believe the Dog-run will be comprised of a special ‘canine turf’ that you can see at the fog run at S. River/ Judy Garland Park .

      The fence replacement are not a huge expense in this and this was a big desire for a lot of people. The actual fencing may even be reused somewhere.

      • January 8, 2014 at 4:11 pm

        Replacing the fencing is an important move towards making the park feel open and safe. Money well spent.

  • January 7, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    The plan looks great. A community veggie garden would be great

  • January 7, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    What will become of all the beautiful plantings on Reed and 13th Street? Hopefully they will remain and be incorporated into the design. The add a component to the park that I have not seen in other parks.

    • January 7, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      The plan is to keep the mature trees that ring the park, as well as the rose garden at 13th and Reed.

    • January 8, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      This. ‘Garden path’ etc. Will be incorporated in the design, as will the corner gardens.

  • January 7, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Please put the site plan graphic up it really is the most useful graphic of the set as it gives a good overview of what is being proposed.


    • January 7, 2014 at 1:45 pm

      Whoops. It was there before and must have gotten bumped off. It’s back up now. Thanks for the heads up

  • January 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    This is great! Can’t wait to see it come to fruition. Two questions/suggestions. The roundhouse was explored as a concession area but was deemed infeasible for that use and is being torn down. Are there any plans to make any kind of commerce possible in the park? Even if it’s just a pad with hook-ups for a rotating set of food trucks on weekends and summer evenings, it would really help to activate the space and give people something to “do” and/or a reason to congregate there.

    Also, has there been any discussion for cold weather/wintertime recreation? Is it possible to build it in such a way that a section of the park can be used for a low-cost, public skating rink for example?I’m sure it brings up a host of liability issues for the city that would need to be worked out but such a thing would be a great neighborhood amenity on cold weekends and holidays – especially during the doldrums from New Year’s Day to about mid March.

    • January 7, 2014 at 2:15 pm

      Nice idea but I don’t think it would be feasible with the cost. Hopefully the one near City Hall will be nice!

    • January 8, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      There is still talk of food trucks on one capacity or another.

      A skating rink was not considered. You are the first person ( to my knowledge) to suggest this.

      Winter doldrums are difficult, I must agree.

  • January 7, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Nice plan! But I hope that the lack of shade on the playgrounds is also addressed. The play areas and equipment get so crazy-hot in summer they are not usable for most of the day. There was once talk of installing canvas sails over the play equipment until the perimeter plantings are mature enough to be effective–hope that’s still a consideration.

    • January 8, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      Canvas sails were rejected by PAR. They don’t have the resources to maintain or remove in a timely manner before a great storm.

      While I agree with your comment. It does look like hybrid elms planted there are starting to take off.

      Shade in that spot is a big issue for us and we will continue to explore.

  • January 7, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Definitely love this idea! That dog park there needs help desperately! I would love a great area to hang out outside and enjoy the neighborhood. The whole park needs a face lift!

  • January 7, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    There is a huge tree on 12th right by the playground entry. I don’t see it on the plans nor in the rendering–it currently stands in the proposed small dogs area. I really hope this tree remains. We’ve lost several large trees in the neighborhood in the past few years, and this one is really beautiful and is the only mature tree on this side of the park. Fingers crossed!!

    • January 8, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      The tree will remain. We would never agree to have a big beautiful tree removed.

  • January 8, 2014 at 2:50 am

    Make the north side the patio, that is where the old folks already hang out. Its not right to make them move.

    • January 8, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      There are plenty of old people who use the current patio site. The people who sit out at Wharton Street can stay there or enjoy the new sitting spaces.

  • January 8, 2014 at 11:56 am

    As a member of the design team and resident off of Passyunk, I am so happy to see such positive feedback and response to the work that has been done so far. A lot of progress was made through design changes and revisions this past year. I hope my small role in creating the renderings that you see within this post helped visualize the potential of this park. Remember that this is only the beginning…..still much is to be done to make this a reality.

    • January 8, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      You guys and gals did a lot of work. We all thank you.

  • January 8, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Thanks for the preview. I still feel that a huge opportunity is being lost here. While I like the proposed plan, the amount of space given to a baseball field is no longer an optimal use in this fast-developing neighborhood. No matter how intensively they are used, baseball/soccer fields will always be part-time use. The sports field will sit unused for most of the day and for a significant percentage of the year and morning/early afternoon users will therefore be denied use of a major part of their neighborhood park. When I see the innovative park redesigns going on in Brooklyn right now, this plan – good as it is – is ultimately a compromise. No question that this will be an improvement. I am sad that a more innovative, truly urban-oriented plan was not developed.

    • January 9, 2014 at 11:43 am

      Its totally a compromise. There are a bunch of stakeholders with all very different views of what the park should look like. But really it comes down to park vs. recreation.

      I’m sure if you went back and looked at the original concepts you would see very park oriented concepts (which would not satisfy the rec crowd) and very rec oriented concept (similar to what is currently there with two large fields nad a playground, which doesn’t satisfy the park crowd).

      we are ending up with something somewhere in the middle.

      • January 9, 2014 at 6:19 pm

        Your characterization is correct. I believe that it is a false compromise between 2 options that were presented as , “it’s either this or that, or something in between .”

        Non one gets out of that box.

    • January 9, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      You make this point very well. Going to ball fields at FDR Park (or Fairmont Park) is not a hardship either. One might even take public transit or walk /bike to those places.

      A park like Washington Square is cherished by locals and visitors alike, because it is a beautiful and cherished public space that embodies the broadest and most deeply held aspirations of a community .

      A ball field that is convenient to one ‘a house is sometimes. ( but not always) treated like a functional entity with little appreciation or respect for the unique position of that space I. That particular community. I know this because I clean up the mess that teams leave behind. I also pick up the fog shit that some fog walkers leave behind. You may notice that you never see walkers you letting their dogs in the grassy area in front of the fire house. This is because they respect that space. I just which more public spaces could be cared for in a more active way.

      PS: The waterfront park in Brooklyn is amazing. Brooklyn is richer and the the government is smarter. Brooklyn is a nicer place, that is why people are willing to sacrifice other things and spend a lot of money to live there .

  • January 8, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    So now how do we get the park’s name changed back to Passyunk Square?

  • January 9, 2014 at 8:55 am

    To those who don’t like the sports fields, take a look around the neighborhood and count all the kids/babies you see. There’s going to be a huge need for such a facility in the near future, if there’s not already. As the parent of a little boy who bought a house in the neighborhood because it’s so family-friendly, I think the new layout looks great.

    • January 9, 2014 at 10:28 am

      I don’t think anyone who is bemoaning the sports fields in the redesign is anti-field. It’s just that they know there are sports fields at 9th and Federal AND 5th and Federal and passive recreation parks are more utilized and thrive on proximity. Going 10 blocks once a week to play little league isn’t a hardship. Not having a real park in our area is.

  • January 9, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    I grew up about 5 blocks away from a Little League field complex and spent a lot of time playing pick-up baseball or just hitting and shagging fly balls with my brothers and friends. Someone above made the point about all the babies and small children around the neighborhood these days. Hopefully we’ll get to the point where these kids can use that field for some pick-up ball (either baseball or soccer or touch football) when it’s not being used by organized leagues. In that way, it’s good to have a nice open field in close proximity since it’s basically going to be all of our kids’ backyard if we’re fortunate enough to be able to raise them in the neighborhood. It will be nice to have a space just a few blocks away to be able to have a quick game of catch with my kid after dinner on a summer Sunday evening. These plans make it look like with the very appropriate shrinking of the athletic fields that there will be plenty of passive recreation space. Kudos to everyone who put this together! Play ball! (or not, as it suits you!)

  • January 11, 2014 at 10:53 am

    We (landscape architects Menke&Menke LLC) did a great deal of groundwork to get K9 installed at Schuylkill River Park (CSX Bridge connecting center city with the Schuylkill River Trail). It has been overwhelmingly appreciated.

    Please go there and take a look if any of the local residents have concerns. I does require irrigation to keep the material disease free for the dogs (something that the City failed to install). Inner City Parks for all residents are essential, and this is a wonderful improvement.

  • January 12, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    I used to live next to that park.

    The fences are high for a VERY SERIOUS REASON. Visit this park in the summer and watch the insanely high powered soccer kicks send soccer balls into the home’s windows and doors around the park blowing them away. Watch these same soccer balls destroy any parked or moving vehicles around that park.

    The fences must be tall for the soccer balls flying at 100’s of mph. The people play soccer in this park like it’s the freakin world cup.

  • January 17, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    To all those who seem to feel it’s necessary to bring Brooklyn into every discussion of South Philly (ad nauseam): Please! Shut up and move–back, or whatever–there as soon as possible.

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