Plans to update Pretzel Park strike a different tone with Community Design Collaborative volunteer landscape architect Jesse Forrester that other modernization projects do.
"At first we thought, 'Well, Pretzel Park is already great. Why do you need to change it?' It gets a lot of use from the neighborhood," he said.
However, further discussions allowed a greater potential to emerge.
"As we spent more time on it, we thought that this is a prime location to bring the crowd on Main Street into the neighborhood in a positive way."
The Manayunk Development Corporation brought the project to the CDC in an effort to link Pretzel Park with Main Street and the Manayunk Canal Towpath. Forrester, through the firm Jonathan Alderson Landscape Architects, Inc., took the lead and presented the area with its conceptual plan, which Manayunk can implement as it choses.
Let's See It
Through alterations, some more involved than others, Forrester developed a proposal that better alerts people to Pretzel Park's existence.
"The big idea of the project was to activate Pretzel Park to bring people up there. We felt the steps leading up to the park are the biggest barriers," he said. "You're walking up there kind of blindly. Landings would spread it out."
In the plan, Forrester called for a "broad, terraced set of stairs" to allow people on Cotton Street to see into the park. The intention is to "create space for activity to occur, places to sit, and enough openness to reassure a first-time visitor that they are entering a safe place."
More simple plans, like better signage or artwork from the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, are also included.
Resident Liz Gabor, who was involved in the project, said better lighting and greenery would also better draw attention.
The Cotton Street Plan
Part of the plan's linking aspect took up what to do, if any anything, with Cotton Street.
Coming from Green Lane, Cotton Street is the first easy to navigate, two-way street for motorists. People have discussed closing it off to create a pedestrian way, but Forrester said they didn't take that approach.
"Should we close it off? In some ways, we all liked that idea, but the feedback we got from the MDC and other people made it sound like it would be unlikely to fly," he said.
Instead, the plan attempted to "activate that street without losing traffic flow and parking... make a corridor without making Manayunk sacrifice."
Planters could enliven the walkway, as could better lighting. In the report, the CDC suggests several approaches, including installing "classic style fixtures found on the towpath, to start to unify Manayunk’s interior with the waterfront."
Additionally, both Forrester and Gabor emphasized the desire to close Cotton Street off during large events and highlighting paths to the towpath and park.
The CDC's role is basically done. The group devised the conceptual plan, and it's in the hands of the MDC, neighbors and businesses. In the short term, Gabor said the park would participate in Mayor Nutter's spring cleanup, held April 14. She said Green Woods Charter School would also pitch in with a cleanup day.
From there, she said, it's gradually working together to better connect the park—whether that's through a grant, mural arts program or private donors. People involved should just be active.
"The idea is to have more regular programs to get people involved with park. We're working with the MDC for First Fridays. We'll just go from there," Gabor said.