$250M FDR Park facelift begins with phase 1 groundbreaking

The renovation of the guardhouse by Pattison Avenue is the first part of a 10-year renovation plan

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Officials have broken ground on the first part of a 10-year, $250 million facelift meant to give a new life to FDR Park in South Philadelphia.

When people use the park entrance on Pattison Avenue near the stadium complex, they see a large house, the old guardhouse that was constructed back in 1919. Currently, the house has boards in the windows with different kinds of fencing around it.

But in one year, officials plan to transform it by putting concessions and a visitor’s center inside it.

“I grew up in this park. I rode my banana bicycle from Third [Street] and Snyder [Avenue] to FDR Park, almost on a regular basis all summer long. This was my shore home. While my friends were down at Wildwood, I came and fished by the lakes here,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.

“It’s just a wonderful thing to see, and we want to get this thing done as soon as possible.”

The long-term plan is meant to make the 348-acre park ecologically sustainable, according to Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell.

“We’re thrilled that with this massive investment that we’re making and this extraordinary project, we will be able to open this as a community resource, a place where people will come when they arrive at the park to see what’s happening in the park, a place where community meetings can be held, an event space, as well as a place to get a bite to eat and just enjoy yourself on beautiful days in the park,” said Lovell.

FDR Park Director Justin DiBerardinis said this new welcome center is the first of three projects scheduled for the renovation’s gateway phase.

“We may have separate lives, but there’s only one FDR Park,” said DiBerardinis.

“We’re all going to meet here. Whether that is delivering some of the highest quality athletics and recreational opportunities in the City of Philadelphia, whether that is delivering community and cultural food opportunities that can’t be met anywhere else in this country, whether it is just creating a beautiful, incredible place to relax and be free and feel proud to be a Philadelphian, that is the vision of FDR Park.”

This project comes after the city talked with nearly 3,000 community members and stakeholders to figure out how to renovate and update the park. The overall plan includes natural areas, lakes, a 5K trail, a 30-foot overlook, water sports and athletic fields.

The new welcome center is expected to open in fall 2023.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Justin Udo/KYW Newsradio