Rebuild Philadelphia
Kingsessing Recreation Center
Project Type

There are more than 400 neighborhood parks, recreation centers, and libraries in Philadelphia.

They serve as safe spaces for people to learn, play, exercise, and get access to important services. About 90% of these places need investment. Enter Rebuilding Community Infrastructure (Rebuild), a 2018 Philadelphia government initiative to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in these facilities across the city, with funding made possible by the Philadelphia Beverage Tax.

Operated by the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department, Kingsessing Recreation Center, one of the city’s oldest and largest, is among 72 sites selected for investment. Located in Southwest Philadelphia, the 9.2-acre site was originally home to the Belmont Cricket Club. When the club disbanded in 1913, the property was sold to the city. Three years later, the new Beaux-Arts style recreation center designed by city architect Philip H. Johnson opened. In 2009 the property, which includes a public library, was added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 2009. The ornate brick masonry and granite structure contains 32,000 square feet on three floors.

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The $24,350,000 renovation project will breathe new life into the building, which has 50 rooms supporting 30+ programs, with an emphasis on code compliance, life safety, user comfort, energy efficiency, and functionality. Site improvements will encompass a playground, multiple ball fields and courts, community gardens, and a swimming pool.

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Site Plan

Kingsessing Recreation Center is a lifeline for a neighborhood experiencing crime and gun violence. Its forthcoming transformation into a 21st century haven for the community is literally a matter of life and death. Community engagement was essential to determine what was most important to the rec center’s users. The process was overseen by Rebuild’s consultant, with support from the design team. There were five public meetings, five unique surveys, 12 stakeholder interviews, and regular meetings with rec center staff. Feedback revealed several key priorities:

  • Improved playground and safety features
  • ADA accessibility to and within the rec center
  • Improved lobby with better lighting and a message board
  • Improvements to the lower level and flex space to allow for more programming
  • Additional and enlarged bathrooms
  • More outdoor seating/gathering options for elders and youths in separate areas
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Prior to design, the A/E team conducted a site and building assessment with an associated cost estimate. The team worked with city agency representatives to prioritize the work scope within the construction budget.

The building itself will get a new roof, insulation, and windows, making it watertight and more energy efficient; exterior masonry will be cleaned, pointed, and restored; MEP/FP systems will be updated to modern standards; ADA improvements, including new elevators and accessible restrooms, will be incorporated; and interiors will be refreshed with paint and new finishes.

Site improvements will address accessibility, stormwater management, new artificial turf fields, new play structures, new or improved connection pathways, development of other community gathering spaces, and repair of select site structures.

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Image Credit: Ground Reconsidered

The floor plans below depict the existing and proposed interior scope for the first and second floors. A lower level is also proposed, and updates to its layout are in progress. An ADA compliant elevator will be accessible on this level. Placement of renovated ADA accessible bathrooms on the lower level is under further study to confirm that they can be accessed throughout the year for all indoor and outdoor programming.

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The main entrance lobby features an updated and welcoming space for patrons of the recreation center, with stately colonnades leading the way to the refurbished grand staircase.

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The Kingsessing Recreation Center project represents a transformational community-based investment to provide a safe haven for youths, and a unifying neighborhood amenity spanning generations and ethnicities.

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