At the intersection of Dartmouth and Park Avenues, construction continues on a “Central Park” for the town of Swarthmore. The park, an idea initiated by the Swarthmore Centennial Foundation, is planned to have a mini amphitheater, an expanded green plaza, and an electric car charging station, but will remove some parking spaces previously available.
Several members of the community look forward to holding events at the new Park.
“[We] have been excited to plan events that can take place outside,” said Lucy Saxon, a librarian at the Swarthmore Public Library. “We are excited to have a place for outdoor library programs.”
Local businesses had mixed feelings about the ongoing construction.
“I don’t think it’s a problem,” said Hania at Harvey Oak Mercantile specialty shop, on Park Avenue across from the construction. “I think that it’s good because people can go enjoy events there. I think it’s cool to see it in construction.”
“It didn’t really affect us [regarding number of customers] and I think it will look nice,” said Paul Feldmayer, who works at the restaurant Vicky’s Place, regarding its number of customers.
Some did have reservations.
“I think it kind of limits how many people come [into the town center], so they have to either walk or park somewhere else. There’s limited parking besides our main parking lot,” said Ciara, who works at the Co-op grocery store. “I’ll have to experience [the finished park] to see how I feel about it. I wish they like, came up and talked about this, not just ‘oh, we’re gunna take away your parking for a little while.’”
She also felt the construction smelled weird and was displeasing to the eye.
Jason Miller, at the Paulson & Company business across Park Avenue from the park, also felt the construction may deter customers.
“They’re still not done [with construction] at the inn and the circle, so the [park] construction doesn’t really help the local businesses.”
His co-worker Rich Simeone felt the construction would not be much of an issue once completed.
“The parking’s the only issue I have with it right now, if you’re trying to bring people into the area,” he said. “But I’m sure a lot of research went into it.”
Saxon did relay that one woman is refusing to return her library book until May 19, the expected date of the Park’s completion. This did not concern Lucy too much, and she still anticipates the services that the Park may offer.
“I think it’ll be good in the long run. It will be an inconvenience for the time but we are excited for greener space and good possibilities … for programs.”
Several people noted that many walk or ride bikes in the Ville, and limited parking may not interfere with the travels of too many patrons.
Mayor Kearney acknowledged the doubts some had about the project, but believed the park would be an enjoyable and festive component to the Ville.
“Some people were upset about losing parking spaces. I think it’s a non-issue, I think the benefits far outweigh the loss of a few parking spaces.”
While the work began on March 7th, discussion about creating a central park has been going on for 15 years. Kearney, also a professional architect, started working with others on drawings of the park four years ago.
He said the park will be able to hold outdoor movie nights, events for children, and farmers’ markets.
Kearney also said taxpayer money is not paying for the park, and all sources of funding are private. The College made a donation to the project.
Artist Massey Burke ’00 will be revisiting Swarthmore to construct the walls of the amphitheater between May 2 and May 15. Burke is the artist who created the earthwork sculpture in front of the science center. For the park, she will make rammed-earth walls, which are constructed out of natural material from the earth. Some of the materials will be collected from on campus, and she will ask current Swarthmore students to volunteer to help build.
“I’m very excited about the project — I think that it is very important to use natural materials in visible, central ways like Swarthmore Central park, because it helps people understand that ecological construction is possible, practical, and beautiful.” She explained. “In the larger context, the use of low-carbon construction techniques like rammed earth play an important role in responding to climate change.”
The entire project will be done within the next couple of months, and the park will be holding the Borough’s annual arts festival in September.