Eurhi Jones

Photos and More: Big Celebration Welcomes New Rain Garden, Mural at Vacant Lot Site

We want to send out a big thank you to all who came out to celebrate the new rain gardens and mural in Hestonville yesterday! Below you’ll find photos from the event and coverage from local TV stations:

Can a Vacant Lot Be Beautiful AND Work for Our Rivers and Streams? We Say Yes.


This map provides an overview of planned improvements at 55th and Hunter. Click the image for a larger version. Credit: Philadelphia Water. 

On Tuesday, we broke ground on a new project—our first official vacant lot site—that truly speaks to what the Green City, Clean Waters program is all about.

At its core, Green City, Clean Waters is about improving the water quality in our rivers and streams. But it’s also about improving our neighborhoods with green stormwater infrastructure that greens and beautifies communities. And it’s about forging partnerships with officials, other departments and government agencies, community groups, and non-profit organizations so that we can bring the benefits of Green City, Clean Waters to a diverse range of community improvement projects—from stormwater tree trenches added to routine sidewalk repairs to rain gardens that enhance schoolyard makeovers.

Our Heston Lot and Baker Playground project has all of those elements. Located in the in the city’s Hestonville neighborhood, the playground and adjacent vacant lot at 55th and Hunter streets has long been in the care of dedicated groups like the Hestonville Civic Association and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), which has maintained the lot through the LandCare program. But, three years ago, City Councilman Curtis Jones approached Philadelphia Water to see if we wanted to get involved in efforts to revamp Baker and make Heston Lot a more inviting, park-like space for the neighborhood.

Because we’re always looking for ways to expand the Green City, Clean Waters footprint, we jumped at the chance and set to work in designing green tools for the two sites. That was in 2012. Now, construction is underway, and we’re inviting the community to an Oct. 7 ground breaking celebration to learn more about what’s in store. Click Here For Event Details.

Councilman Jones is in the process of implementing Heston Lot improvements that include fresh sidewalks, a new gazebo with benches and a wheel chair access path. The City’s Department of Public Property, which owns the lot, helped raise funds for the gazebo. Across the street at Baker, Jones is working with and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to bring improvements that include sidewalk upgrades, a Mural Arts installation and new heater. PHS is also donating a post-and-rail fence for Heston Lot. In all, Jones’ office contributed $140,000 for the projects. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also generously kicked in funding to help us with these projects and another nearby vacant land site.

To enhance those improvements and meet the stormwater management goals of Green City, Clean Waters, Philadelphia Water is building rain gardens and subsurface storage trenches at both sites. While the rain gardens will provide landscaped green space for the neighborhood, we’re upping the community beautification aspects of the project by working with Mural Arts to install a water-themed mural at Heston Lot. Designed by artists Eurhi Jones and Michael Reali, the colorful piece highlights neighborhood connections to the Schuylkill River and includes aquatic wildlife such as American shad, river otters and a heron. Reali will add textural dimension to Jones’ design, making some of the water elements sparkle and shine through the use of mosaic materials.

From an environmental perspective, the Heston Lot rain garden and storage trench will soak up and filter water from surrounding streets, and can hold 3,638 cubic feet of water. That’s equivalent to filling one SEPTA bus, 389 bathtubs, or leaving the faucet running for nearly 9.5 days! Across the street at Baker, that rain garden and storage trench will manage stormwater from 11,269 square feet of nearby impervious surfaces. The playground’s green tools have a stormwater storage capacity of 1,417 cubic feet, which is equivalent to 151 bathtubs of water or leaving a faucet running for over 88 hours. Combined, these sites provide the city with an additional 2.27 “greened acres”— that’s acres of impervious surface whose stormwater is now managed by Green City, Clean Waters tools.

While the actual green tools currently being built in Hestonville are pretty typical for Green City, Clean Waters, we’re excited about the potential to bring more green infrastructure projects like this to other vacant land sites in the city. The negative impact of vacant lots on communities is well documented. If we can work with partners to tackle the challenges of vacant lots through Green City, Clean Waters, we’re effectively delivering a one-two punch that knocks out blighted areas and turns them into valuable community green spaces that also help improve our rivers and streams.

Healthier rivers and streams. Greener, more beautiful neighborhoods. That’s what Green City, Clean Waters is all about, and the work underway at Heston Lot is shining example of what the program can achieve.

New Video: Philly Water Art Strengthens River Connections

A girl checks out the Waterways art at the Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center. Photo credit: Philadelphia Water.
Waterways art at the Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center. Photo credit: Philadelphia Water.

Before we started our trailblazing Waterways collaboration with Mural Arts, we hit the streets for an informal survey looking at what people in Manayunk know about our efforts to improve the health of the Schuylkill River and whether that’s something they care about.

Since the dozens of colorful vinyl pieces created by artist Eurhi Jones for Waterways were designed to act as steppingstones linking Pretzel Park to a vastly improved Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center with tons of important stormwater features, we wanted to know how many people knew about those improvements.

In that survey, a striking 90% of the people we spoke to weren't aware of all that Venice Island's stormwater features are doing to improve Schuylkill River water quality. The number was way out of whack with the percent of people—a full 100%—who support improving the health of our waterways. In other words, everyone wants healthy rivers, but not many people know how money is being spent to achieve that goal.

So, five months after the Waterways debut, we went back out to the streets of Manayunk to see if people had a better sense of how features like the green roof  and 4 million gallon stormwater basin at Venice Island are helping to make the Schuylkill better. And, we’re pleased to say that 30.6% of respondents said they knew about Philadelphia Water’s Venice Island improvements. It might not be the 100% we all want, but it’s a start!

To further highlight Waterways and other infrastructure-enhancing public art projects, we put together a cool video about Philly Water Art projects. You can find out all about Philly Water Art while getting a unique drone’s-eye-view of Venice Island and Manayunk here:

While Waterways was designed to be a temporary street art project, the Mural Arts team has been doing weekly check-ups on the integrity of the installation, and so far it’s still looking great. Philadelphia Water has also been monitoring the effectiveness of our stormwater basin, and it’s also doing its job of keeping dirty water out of the river. If you haven’t seen Waterways in person yet, we encourage you to take a stroll and soak in the art while checking out amazing Manayunk green spaces like Pretzel Park, the Manayunk Canal and Venice Island.

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