Henon: McArdle Playground will be upgraded

A Northeast Philadelphia playground will be getting a $500,000 facelift, possibly by the end of next year, according to City Councilman Bobby Henon.

Henon and city parks and recreation officials presented conceptual plans for McArdle Playground during the monthly meeting of the Holme Circle Civic Association on Nov. 16. Due to its proximity to Pollock Elementary School and a dense residential community, the playground is in high demand. Yet, the facilities haven’t been refurbished in decades. The site is at 2801 Welsh Road.

The new plans call for a restoration and reconfiguration of about 20,000 square feet of outdoor space, including tennis and basketball courts, swingsets, slides, climbing equipment, a tricycle track and sitting areas. The work will also include tree plantings, the installation of a new grassy area and the protection of another worn grassy area. The new design will sacrifice a little-used street hockey rink in favor of a new full basketball court and a half basketball court.

“This is one of the good things I have an opportunity to take part in,” said Henon, whose District 6 capital budget allocation will finance the work. “This is one of the most overdue projects.”

About a dozen pupils from the neighboring Pollock School and their principal, Dontae L. Wilson, eagerly viewed renderings of the plans.

Henon said that the project will emphasize safe play for children, open space, an inviting atmosphere and security with the installation of surveillance cameras and improved lighting. Community input will be sought throughout the design process, which will continue until next spring.

The Parks and Recreation Department awarded the design contract to RBA Group. Landscape designer Tom Fein leads the design team. RBA seeks input from local kids to determine what type of playground equipment they prefer. The installations will have to serve younger and older children as well as those with varying physical abilities.

During a question-and-answer session, one boy asked if they could build a separate play area for younger kids to protect them.

The answer was yes. Another boy asked if they could rebuild a large sculpture known as “the big A,” which seems to be deteriorating. Fein said maybe.

Another youth asked if the project could include a quiet place for kids to sit and read books.

“Yes, we like to consider those,” Fein said.

Construction could be complete in late 2017 or early ’18, Henon said. The city will then assign a recreation leader to manage activities there, according to Valerie Arhondakis, the Parks and Recreation district manager.

• In an unrelated meeting topic, officials from Conifer Realty reported that their renovation of the former Infant Jesus Convent is about half complete. The Pennypack Crossing home for older adults at 2723 Holme Ave. will include 44 single-bedroom apartments that will be restricted to residents age 55 and older. Conifer expects the first units to be ready for occupancy in mid-June.

• Also at last week’s meeting, the civic association elected a new board of officers to two-year terms. Mike Fagan, a legislative aide to state Sen. John Sabatina, was elected president. Members also elected Linda Colwell-Smith as the new vice president. She is president of the Friends of Torresdale Branch Library.

Three officers will retain their positions on the board: Betty Brown, recording secretary; Elsie Stevens, corresponding secretary; and Tom McCurdy, treasurer. At-large directors are Kimberly Keenan and Tim Sullivan. ••