Newly installed play pieces are an overture to a much larger suite.
On August 6, construction crews broke ground on a new play area outside the East Passyunk Community Center (EPCC) at 1025 Mifflin Street. The space will include a series of outdoor interactive musical instruments for all ages. The pieces—warble chimes, a metallophone, and drums—are all wheelchair-accessible and safe for play. Construction workers will replace the surrounding concrete with softscape.
The project was spearheaded by the EPCC Advisory Council as part of a larger plan to overhaul the center’s outdoor space. “Everyone realizes the building has great indoor space,” said Advisory Council member Margaret Kalalian, “but the community center is fortress-like. It needs a welcoming exterior with a multi-generational playground and outdoor space.”
Two years ago, the Community Design Collaborative awarded the EPCC a $50,000 design grant. During a series of meetings, community members expressed a desire to see natural space in a setting appropriate for everybody from young children to seniors. The Collaborative proposed a design scheme to meet those needs while making the community center surroundings more inclusive, interactive, and safe.
The conceptual design suggests a more open, welcoming entrance, lighting and signage upgrades, facade enhancements, surface and subsurface storm water modifications, a new playground, and new trees and planting beds. A year ago, councilman Mark Squilla provided $40,000 in funding to begin improvements.
“Projects like this, with multiple partners, take a long time to complete. I’m thrilled to see progress at last,” said EPCC Advisory Council President Joseph F. Marino. “The Community Design Collaborative gave us tremendous ideas. We wanted to start by doing as much as we could within our budget.”
Kalalian added, “Right now, there’s a large art installation in front of the building. A sundial. It’s beautiful, but kids like to climb on it. It isn’t an appropriate use, so we’re happy to have better options coming soon. The sundial will find use at another site, and the city is helping us relocate it.”
The outdoor space around the community center has seen a good amount of activity in the past several years. It hosts an annual Easter Egg hunt, a petting zoo, concerts, and flea markets. Residents have found the bocce courts on the east side of the building to be especially popular.
“We are hoping this will be a launching pad for donors and stakeholders to help us further fund the play area,” said Marino. “Future plans include a chalk wall and a spray garden, which will be tremendous when the summer is this long and this hot. I’m excited to see where this goes.”
The musical play space is on target to open at the end of the month.