Grounds for Change: Activating Vacant Land

Waterview Recreation Center


Tags: collaboration, community, communitycenter, flowthrough, infiltration, masterplan, paving, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, planter, recreation, stormwater, streets, trees, water

A renovated community center incorporates streetside features to manage stormwater.

Waterview Recreation Center is a combination community center and park located in Philadelphia's Germantown neighborhood, north and east of Center City.  As part of a new master plan for the site, the Philadelphia Water Department's Office of Watersheds collaborated with the city's Department of Recreation and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to include stormwater management features in the final design.  The facility's urban setting makes it both prone to runoff and also an excellent showcase for ways to reduce runoff.

Several different water management elements have been incorporated, including porous concrete sidewalks, a "subsurface infiltration tree trench," and flow-through planter boxes.  Traditionally, infiltration trenches have been known as swales, large, open basins, planted with a variety of grasses and shrubs, that filter water through aggregate soils and plant material before returning it to the combined sewer system with low levels of pollution.  The subsurface trenches at Waterview are filled with gravel and are fully incorporated with the porous concrete sidewalks in place of storm drains.

Trees planted in trenches line the new sidewalks, provided additional structural support by the subsurface trenches.  The combined result is a viable walkway with improved shade cover in summertime.  Flow-through planter boxes, located on either side of the building's main entrance, are a visible and curiosity-provoking water management feature for the Center.  Their purpose is to filter and slow the flow of roof runoff, helping to prevent sewer overload during storm events.


Philadelphia Water Department Office of Watersheds

Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, Inc.

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