Connor Barwin and Crew Break Ground on ‘Innovative’ Smith Playground Project

The Philadelphia Eagles may have had a rough season, but Barwin's work off the field has been as impressive as his play on it.

Project #2 is officially underway!

Posted by Urban Roots on Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Eagles fans have suffered through an up-and-down season, one that ultimately led to the team missing the playoffs and Chip Kelly getting canned (more here and here). It’s one that many would soon forget.

One of the bright spots for the team has been the work from linebacker Connor Barwin, particularly with his contributions off of the gridiron.

Barwin, who is listed among the nominees for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, was at Smith Playground in South Philadelphia this week to break ground on the next urban park revitalization project he’s spearheading through his foundation, Make the World Better Project, with various partners, including Urban Roots, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) and local stakeholders.

The massive park is located at 24th and Snyder, and the project is estimated to cost nearly $3.1 million.  When complete, the new-look Smith Playground will include an overhauled football field with artificial turf, new basketball courts with solar-paneled shade structures, a playground, its first-ever fitness trail and even a spiffed-up rec center with a kitchen.

All told, the new amenities will allow for Parks and Rec to double its programming at the 7.5-acre site.  “It’s going to be one of the most innovative projects in the country,” said Jeffrey Tubbs, founder of Urban Roots, of the project when they announced it in June.

Though it will go largely unseen (and unheralded) the entire park will be outfitted with innovative stormwater management infrastructure from the PWD. In kicking in $600,000 for the project, the PWD is a major source of funding for the project.

The group has secured roughly $2.9 million in funding for the project, as Barwin’s annual MTWB concert at Union Transfer this year helped raise $300,000.

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson’s office kicked in $820,000. Mayor Nutter’s office gave $400,000. Urban Roots pledged $150,000. Parks and Rec gave $300,000 and even the NFL got involved by giving $200,000.

Much like with the previous project at Ralph Brooks Park in Point Breeze, which officially opened in August, Mural Arts will be adding colorful and inspirational works around the park to add to the overall experience.

When reached by email, Tubbs said that the group is a “month or so away” from picking the site of the third park project.