Philadelphia is at a crossroads—balancing economic recovery with the need for civic improvements and a deadline from the EPA to upgrade its overburdened combined sewer infrastructure. But rather than building more pipes and storage tanks, the city is looking to green stormwater infrastructure to achieve this mandate. Some sites—municipal properties, large vacant parcels—can be transformed with green infrastructure at a relatively low cost, but this land makes up only a fraction of what’s required to comply with federal benchmarks and meet Philadelphia’s goal of greening 9,500 city acres. Meeting Green helps to close this gap by implementing green infrastructure where the people are.
Recognizing that investment in civic infrastructure and social systems can align in similar networks, Meeting Green shows how repurposing the public realm in neighborhoods can improve stormwater performance. An abandoned factory site becomes a park with a rain garden, absorbing stormwater from the surrounding properties, attracting wildlife, and offering an educational amenity. In a newly improved public plaza, a sculptural seating element is designed to allow rainwater to pass into an infiltration bed below and offers a view into green infrastructure systems at work. In backyards, redesigned drainage links to rain barrels and pervious paved infiltration alleys.
With these and other reinvestments in the neighborhood, the team found over 300,000 square feet of land where stormwater could be managed throughout the study area, meaning that during a three-inch storm event, 41% of all stormwater that falls into the neighborhood would be managed through these systems. Further, the city can leverage the high visibility of these projects to spur private investment through incentive programs, tax abatements, and other means, increasing the likelihood of implementation. By layering the functions of stormwater management and civic improvement, Meeting Green is a holistic strategy for responsible urban growth.
Project Team: OLIN, landscape architecture, team lead SMP Architects, architecture and planning Gilmore & Associates, civil engineering MMPartners, development consulting International Consultants, Inc., cost estimating Penn Praxis, policy, funding, and implementation consulting