If you’ve been to a public pool in Philadelphia, you know some of them could use a facelift.
A new city initiative, Swim Philly, is bringing a little cushion and color to Philly’s pools. The program is a sort of quick-fix designed to bring the public spaces to life by adding bright beach chairs, fresh paint, umbrellas and planters, as well as a number of free community programs, like poolside yoga and water aerobics.
Swim Philly is riding on the waves of the Francisville pop-up pool, a successful project by urban planner Ben Bryant. Funded by the Knight Foundation’s Cities Challenge grant, he transformed the pool into a tiny urban oasis, equipped with palm trees, fake grass and large wooden benches. The project attracted first-time public pool users like never before.
Four pools have seen changes under the Swim Philly program: the Lee Cultural Center in West Philly, the O’Connor Pool at Markward Playground in southwest Center City, Pleasant Playground in Mt. Airy, and the Lawncrest Recreation Center in the Northeast. The pop-up project at the Francisville pool will stick around as well.
The city worked with Sikora Wells Appel to design the landscaping and installations. It’s all part of a plan to make pools more accessible and desirable, which, as Philadelphia magazine’s Malcolm Burnley pointed out last year, is well overdue:
“There are 70 outdoor public pools in Philadelphia, one for almost every neighborhood in the city, and more than any other city in the nation. New York has one pool for every 150,000 residents. In Philly, it’s one for every 22,000.
What if they weren’t so desolate looking? What if city pools could be made into something more than holes in a concrete expanse? What if, in other words, we treated these pools like the incredible civic assets that they actually are?”
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