The Schuylkill River will be getting a boardwalk added next year, but what works are also giving Philadelphia a much-needed cultural face-lift? Read on for the projects paving the way for a better city, from arts and community developments to recently created or planned public spaces.
1. Bike-riders and walkers rejoiced when news came out that the 2,000-foot-long boardwalk extension of the Schuylkill Banks trail plans on opening next August or shortly after, depending on this winter’s weather. Starting at Locust Street and running parallel to the river’s eastern shore until it’s connected with a ramp to the South Street Bridge, the Schuylkill River Trail has slowly become more coherent and connected in recent years, with plans to create one continuous trail from Pottsville to Southwest Philadelphia now in the works.
2. Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund was busy this year opening Grays Ferry Crescent Skatepark a few weeks ago and Franklin’s Paine Skatepark, the largest public skate plaza in North America, in May after 10 years of fundraising and planning. What’s up next on the agenda? The organization is currently working on rolling out skateparks in Mantua, Nicetown and Chestnut Hill.
3. Sansom Street’s Roxy Theater closed last September, but the Philadelphia Film Society scooped it up and started renovating it in the hopes of opening it long before their annual Philadelphia Film Festival starts Oct. 17. Though the open date has been pushed back month after month, PFS executive director J. Andrew Greenblatt has said that the contractors told him the theatre should be up and running in October.
4. Legendary jazz musician John Coltrane honed his craft during his early years in Philadelphia from 1943 to 1958. The Preservation Alliance’s Coltrane initiative is working with the nonprofit John Coltrane House organization to repair his Strawberry Mansion house on N. 33rd Street. The house was inherited by his cousin Mary Lyerly Alexander — the inspiration for his song “Cousin Mary” — when he passed away at age 40 in 1967. Recognized as a national historic landmark in 1999, the house stayed in the family until Mary passed away in 2004. A devoted fan purchased the house with the intention of making it a museum, and his family carried out the legacy by forming a nonprofit organization to raise money to repair the house. Though the project is not completed, the house has hosted workshops, performances and tours before.
5. For all of you out there who have been making calls and ritual sacrifices for Philadelphia to get an American Goddess Museum, your prayers will be answered when the museum is expected to open in three to four months. The space, located by Norris Square in Kensington at 2007-13 N. Second St., is in an enormous hall originally built in 1890. It was used as a public space for singing societies and social clubs for German or Hungarian immigrants and their American offspring and later became the site of the Polish Institute of America. In 2011, the 18,000-square-foot property was purchased by new owners, Pan Yu Zhen and Schicktanz Qiong Zhao, with the intent of becoming an American Goddess Museum, which already trademarked its name and has its own website up with pictures of goddess-related art. Not much else is out there about the museum or its owners, but many goddesses are known for tricking humans, after all.