The grass field next to Lovett Memorial Library at 6945 Germantown Ave. is an open lot. Currently, only a few benches and unkempt gardens occupy the area. In 2007, Mount Airy USA took notice of the area’s potential and began plans to revitalize it. Since then, they have worked with the Free Library of Philadelphia, Community Design Collaborative and Mount Airy community to put their ideas into action.
“We finished our conceptual design and went through a comprehensive community re-visioning process and really whittled down exactly what the elements of the park would be that would achieve our goals,” Elizabeth Moselle, Director of Commercial Revitalization for Mount Airy USA, said.
The organization works closely with businesses along Germantown Avenue to improve the area’s aesthetics. “We’ve done over 70 storefront improvements, we’ve done a major street scape improvement project with new lighting and sidewalks,” Moselle said. “Those are just a few highlights of what we’ve done.”
The organization hopes it can soon add Lovett Park to the list.
“We would love to have at least the first phase of [the project] completed within a year, and we’ll move on from there,” Moselle said. “We’d love to implement as much as we possibly can depending on the availability of funding.”
“We’re still in the process of raising funds for the actual project construction, so we’ve phased out how the fundraising works,” she said. “It will likely be a combination of everything from foundation grants, to public money, to individual contributions.”
Mount Airy USA is currently a finalist for the ArtPlace Grant, which helps fund projects dedicated to community revitalization through art. This grant could determine the timeline and the date of project completion. Moselle said that the group should know more about its funding situation by the end of May.
“Community members have shown support in a number of ways”, Moselle said. “Whether it’s attending planning meetings and providing feedback or even giving donations.”
Elise Rivers, owner of Community Acupuncture of Mount Airy, a sliding scale acupuncture clinic at 6782 Germantown Ave., has started a match grant, pledging to match any donation made to the project in affiliation with her practice of up to $2,500.
“I’m always looking for opportunities to have my business give back to the community in a way that feels good for me,” Rivers said. “I really believe in green space in the city and I really believe in people having a place to be in nature and to relax.”
She said that Lovett Park is that space. “The park is really underutilized right now. It needs benches and play space, but has a lot of potential,” Rivers said.
Rivers has raised about $500 so far, mostly through her patrons and word-of-mouth.
Since Rivers lives near Lovett Memorial Library, Mount Airy USA involved her from the beginning.
“I happen to know some of the neighbors that were on the blocks closer to the park,” she said. “So I made up a flyer and I let those people know we were having meetings and people did come out.”
Lynn Ruthrauff, head librarian at the Lovett Memorial Branch, said she hopes the park will “connect the two commercial areas in Mount Airy on Germantown Avenue.”
The park will also promote the library and help bring more people to their events, she said.
“We want our branch to be first and foremost when people are thinking about programs and community events,” Toni Hoagland, Northwest area administrator, said. “So as opposed to being a separate entity, we’re into this collaboration aspect and promotion of the community with Mount Airy USA.”
“It’s using [the space] to promote Mount Airy as a whole,” she said.
The plan also includes a reading garden and story ring and will add multiple benches and seating areas. A nature play area for children and the plaza along Germantown Avenue, with café tables and chairs for outdoor dining, complete the vision. Also, the library is extending their wireless network to include the park area.
“It makes it a place that suddenly you can walk down the avenue and there’s people there and it makes the whole block lit up,” Moselle said. “But it’s also a place where you could sit outside and eat lunch and where families can come sit outside and have dinner together in the evening.”
The Lovett Park project also represents a change for the library model, Ruthrauff said.
“Before, organizations acted pretty much as separate entities. Now, economically, this doesn’t make sense,” she said. “It makes sense to use one another’s assets to ultimately accomplish similar goals.”
The collaboration between Mount Airy USA, the Free Library and the Mount Airy community is key to the success of this project.
“We want people to come here for a reason and use the park as a destination,” said Ruthrauff.