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Urban Energy Design Charrette Recap

  • SHARE Possibilities: Charrette participants Greg Hart, Bill Shick, Paul Vernon, and Naomi Geschwind brainstorm on design strategies to foster a sense of community.

Can a former ball bearing factory in North Philly become the nexus for a new, sustainable business community?  Over forty design and sustainability professionals got together in April to sketch out ideas for making that happen on a five-acre site in Hunting Park West.

The site is the location of the SHARE Food Program and Green Village. In a city where a quarter of all residents qualify for food stamps, the SHARE Food Program takes a unique approach to food access. SHARE purchases fresh, healthy food wholesale and passes it along to urban households at affordable prices.  Rather than simply offering free meals or groceries, SHARE fosters independence and a sense of pride by requiring people to “do good to eat good.”  Every person purchasing food from SHARE is asked to contribute two hours of volunteer time each week at SHARE or in his or her own community.

Green Village Philadelphia, an educational nonprofit organized to inform and increase the ability of people to create Urban Ecovillages, leases space at the site for its headquarters. It was Green Village who brought SHARE’s Hunting Park West property to the Collaborative’s attention. Common Market, a distributor of locally-grown fresh food to schools and nonprofits and recipient of a $1.1 million Kellogg Foundation grant, is also a tenant and poised to make improvements.

SHARE recently bought the five-acre industrial site they had been renting for 22 years. Now they are seeking to make the site their own and, in the long run, build it into a hub for sustainable, community-based businesses. To help unlock the site’s potential, the Collaborative hosted a one-day design charrette during the Delaware Valley Green Building Council’s “Best of Greenbuild” conference in April.

At the morning kick-off, Steveanna Wynn, SHARE’s Executive Director, fueled charrette participants’ enthusiasm, saying “This is the most awesome thing ever. This many people all willing to share their expertise is awesome.” When SHARE started at the site, a former ball bearing factory in Hunting Park, she explained, they occupied 4,000 square feet and served 1,280 households. Now SHARE uses 180,000 square feet, and serves 20,000 households.

In spite of SHARE’s growth, the building is still larger than their food storage needs. SHARE and Steveanna have big dreams for the space. There’s the potential for urban farming, a nonprofit incubator, and co-location with other established nonprofits. More immediately, the existing structure could be modified to better serve SHARE’s core mission.

Over 40 design and sustainability professionals spent much of the day collaborating with advisors on urban agriculture, storm water management, and energy policy. Here is a quick recap of the ideas they developed for the SHARE site.

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Creating Community

The Yellow Team removed crumbling additions from the 1950s, making room for a main entrance with a demonstration garden to entice the community inside. The team recommended adding new, pedestrian-friendly destinations to the site like a dog park and café and greening the Hunting Park Avenue streetscape.

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Farming the Rooftop

The Blue Team deepened SHARE’s operational capacity by developing the rooftop. When the factory was built, three floors were planned but only two were actually built and the roof structure can support more than just a rooftop garden. The team proposed rooftop greenhouses to sustain more intensive agriculture, longer growing seasons, and more educational programming.

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The Red Team proposed a mixed-use sustainable community with co-housing on the roof and communal spaces such as a sky lit interior “street”, an atrium meeting space, and an orchard and farmer’s market to augment the existing garden.

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Regenerative Forest

The Green Team reinforced connections between inside and outside, creating a ring of circulation around the site and making land accessible from three sides of the building. Looking to the ecological history of the site, they proposed returning the open land to forest, specifically a regenerative forest farm with ponds or wetlands.

After the teams presented, moderator Mami Hara expressed the common sentiment among the judges, “I am overwhelmed!” But she and the panelists did capture several takeaway lessons for SHARE— be attentive and practical about the movement (of food and people), use the site to expand urban green space, and create connections between the site and the community.

PROJECT PARTNERS Community Design Collaborative Delaware Valley Green Building Council

NEIGHBORHOOD PARTNERS SHARE Food Program Green Village Philadelphia

CHARRETTE PREP TEAM BWA architecture + planning Richard Winston, AIA Morris Zimmerman, AIA, LEED AP Tom Kirchner, AIA Kathy Lent

m2 Architecture Muscoe Martin, RA, LEED AP Makella Craelius

Thomas C. Faranda, P.E. Tom Faranda, PE

Viridian Landscape Studio Tavis Dockwiller, RLA, ASLA

Duffield Associates Dan Meier, PE

Ballinger Bradford Crowley, PE

Nason Construction, Inc. Robin Tama

REVIEW PANEL José Almiñana, FASLA, LEED AP, Principal, Andropogon Jessica Brooks, Water Resources Engineer, Philadelphia Water Department Alex Dews, LEED AP, Policy and Program Manager, Mayor’s Office of Sustainability Joe Healy, AIA, LEED AP, Managing Partner, WRT/Board of Directors, DVGBC Ron Hinton Jr., President, Allegheny West Foundation John Weidman, Deputy Executive Director, Food Trust Steveanna Wynn, Executive Director, SHARE Food Program

Moderator Mami Hara, ASLA, AICP, Principal, WRT/Board of Directors, Community Design Collaborative


Post Co-Written by Linda Dottor & Harrison Haas


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