Between the graffiti, chipping paint and ancient swing set, Weccacoe Playground doesn’t look like a popular place for children to play. It appears almost neglected.
But the playground at the corner of Fourth and Catherine streets is far from forgotten.
Since 2009, Friends of Weccacoe Playground, a committee of the Queen Village Neighbors Association, has been discussing plans to renovate the playground. However, a lack of funds posed a constant problem until Monday, when the committee revealed that revealed that the City of Philadelphia will provide $535,200 to renew the recreation area.
“It means the playground is a done deal,” said Jeff Hornstein, the president of the Queen Village Neighbors Association.
Friends of Weccacoe Playground will receive $259,200 from the 1st City Council District, $194,400 from the Department of Parks and Recreation, and $81,600 from the Philadelphia Water Department for the playground renewal, said Walt Lowthian, the chair of Friends of Weccacoe Playground.
One of the main changes to Weccacoe Playground will be the installation of a “wet zone,” which will include a water spray feature and a rain garden for storm water collection.
All the play equipment will be refurbished and an obstacle course will be installed. More trees, planting beds and benches will be added, and the tennis court will be resurfaced as well. But these are only a handful of the renovations to come.
The renewal will completely transform Weccacoe Playground, Lowthian said.
Renovations are expected to start this September or October based on talks with 1st District Councilman Mark Squilla, Hornstein said.
Certainly, the playground renewal will be something for the community to look forward to.
“I usually bring my son here about twice a week after school,” South Philadelphia resident Maria Cifone said. “He goes to William M. Meredith School, which is really close to Weccacoe Park. The convenience of this place is key.”
While the grant from the city is great news to Friends of Weccacoe Playground and playground users, the committee still needs another $500,000 in order to renovate the playground building.
“We want to convert the building to a more welcoming and utilizable community space,” Lowthian said.
The building currently is home to offices of the Queen Village Neighbors Association and is rented out for various occasions. Friends of Weccacoe Playground said it would like to renovate the space in order to expand its community services, offering programs such as seminars, children’s playgroups and an afternoon student center.
“It would be nice to see more community groups that get the kids involved,” said Debbie Mucklow, a South Philadelphia resident, who was at Weccacoe Playground with her children.
Despite not having enough funds for building renovations, Hornstein said he is excited to move forward with the playground renewal.
“Getting a huge chunk of change from the city is amazing at a time like this,” Hornstein said. “We’ve got half the vision.”