Zoo’s African Plains Project a Step Closer to Being Realized

The Art Commission gave conceptual approval to the plans on Wednesday.

A rendering the upcoming Gorilla Treeway, an extension of the Great Ape Trail.

A rendering the upcoming Gorilla Treeway, an extension of the Great Ape Trail.

Who says Philly’s homo sapiens are the only ones seeing changes in their habitat? PlanPhilly’s Matt Golas reports Wednesday saw the Art Commission give conceptual approval the Philadelphia Zoo’s African Plains project, one of six in there Zoo360 plan, a campus-wide trail system that will allow Zoo residents “more exciting and enriching experiences,” while maintaining their safety.

According to the Zoo360 plan on the Zoo’s website, four of the projects have already been established (Treetop Trail in 2011, Great Ape Trail in 2012, KidZooU in 2013, and Big Cat Crossing in 2014). The 300-foot Gorilla Treeway is set to open this May, while the African Plains project is expected to open in 2016, provided they get the official go-ahead.

In 2017, a Water Hole project will be the final Zoo360 redesign.

Given that the verdict from earlier this week was only a conceptual approval, Zoo vice president Nina Bisbee will have to present again with “more detailed materials and landscape plan.” Additionally, Golas writes the latest redesign will not be without its difficulties:

The biggest challenge according to Bisbee is making all the specific exhibits and the essential barriers that were designed for one species work together for all of the plains animals involved. Commissioner José Almiñana chimed in that tree placement and shading would be key to making the African Plains gambit a success and Bisbee acknowledged that tree protection (plains creatures love to eat them and stand on top of the root systems) will test the planning team.

Moats and barriers will also be added to “provide visitors with much closer access to the animals while maintaining safety and security for guests and the animals.”

CLR Design from Philadelphia and John Coe Design from Australia are both collaborating with the Zoo for their Zoo360 plan.

Art Commission grants conceptual approval to Zoo360 plans and rec center work [PlanPhilly]