Design Ideas Unveiled for Lovett Park
Residents gathered next to the Lovett branch of the Free Library to learn more about possible renovations to an area some think is underutilized.
It wasn’t until Anuj Gupta started strolling through the neighborhood with his daughter that he realized how underutilized the small park near the Lovett library branch is.
“On the nicest days of the year, while people are streaming in and out of the library, I would walk by and we didn’t see a soul out here,” said Gupta, executive director of Mt. Airy USA.
His organization, along with a design team, presented tentative plans for a renovation of Lovett Park on Friday to a crowd of 30 or 40.
Illustrations of the proposed design were presented on easels in the park, but it was mentioned often that nothing had been finalized, and that the illustrations were not to scale. The main idea behind the gathering was to generate ideas for more discussion.
The designs included an amphitheater, cafe tables and what was described as a “nature play” area—which appears to be a forest-like jungle gym.
A second stage of design is in the works, which Gupta said will again invite community feedback. This draft will involve more specific details, such as the types of flowers to be planted and perhaps a lighting scheme.
Mt. Airy USA will work with a landscape architect to craft a design that reflects residents’ wishes, said Gupta. The project received its first significant wave of input at a community meeting in November.
“What we tried to come up with was a broad consensus, because there’s no one prevailing view that can dictate how a public space should be used,” Gupta said.
Vivian Schatz has lived in Mt. Airy since 1969 and has been coming to the library regularly for years. Her late husband, Albert Schatz, helped discover the first antibiotic against tuberculosis and can be seen on the mural at the side of the library.
She thinks of open green space as a commodity in Philadelphia, and she’s lately been voicing her opposition to any updates.
“This is very natural,” she said. “It doesn’t need to change. If people want to gather here, they can gather here.”
One couple said the neighborhood should raise money for more important issues, like better schools.
Elise Rivers said her business, Community Acupuncture of Mt. Airy (CAMA), will match any donation made through her business or Web site—up to $5,000—to get the changes underway.
“It’s very important, geographically, to link the two commercial nodes of the avenue,” she said, referencing a gap in small businesses near the library and ACME on Germantown Avenue. CAMA is south of this area, near other independent ventures that reflect a somewhat artsy and health-conscious swing.
Rivers started a drum circle last year that takes place on the first Sunday of every month. She said she can appreciate passive enjoyment of nature, but thinks more interactive activities would be beneficial.
“I think we could certainly use green space that promotes social connection,” she said.
One common worry among residents who have been participating in the dialogue is that trees will be removed. Hilary Malson, commercial revitalization and communications associate for Mt. Airy USA, said the conceptual designs include additional plants, with no proposed removals.
“This is Mt. Airy—no one wants to cut down trees,” Malson laughed. “Let’s not kid ourselves.”
A group of children who frequent the field seemed interested in these additions, and curiously eyed the designs. One of the younger ones requested a waterslide and got laughed at by an older girl.
The kids stayed in the park waiting for Moonlight Movies in Mt. Airy to begin, and the crowd quadrupled by the time the fireflies came out and Scout hummed innocently in the opening credits of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”