Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC)
Olney 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. Olney Recreation Center is among 72 sites selected for investment, and like Olney, most are in at-risk neighborhoods.

Located in northeast Philadelphia, Olney Recreation Center occupies a 13.6-acre site incorporating outdoor sports fields, ball courts, playgrounds, and open space, and a 20,600 square foot, one-story plus basement building constructed in 1957. A gymnasium was added in 1962. By the time an RFQ for A/E services was issued in October 2018, 56 years had passed without the buildings or site having undergone significant changes.

An investment of $13,010,000 will result in a new recreation center; gymnasium and MEP infrastructure improvements; major upgrades to ball courts, multi-sport fields, track, playgrounds, and landscaping; and new outdoor lighting, fencing, and spray ground.

KMA is leading a large multidisciplinary team on this project, which seeks LEED Silver certification.

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Olney’s site and new recreation building were designed to reflect the scale, materials, details, and color of the existing building and neighborhood fabric.

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Primary program spaces within the recreation center are positioned to maximize visual access and proximity to the main entrance, community terrace, and playgrounds.

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A grand light-filled atrium defines the building’s “front door” and establishes a focal point for neighborhood gatherings.

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The building exterior is distinguished by a mix of masonry colors and patterns, decorative yet purposeful window screens, and rust colored metal fins.

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Clerestory glazing and large windows provide ample natural light to the interior “Main Street,” and visibility from the primary program spaces to the outdoor spaces.

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Playful decorative metal window screens compliment the building’s aesthetic while providing security and visibility.

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Olney Recreation Center’s renovations, additions, and overall modernization is impactful to the community and meaningful to the agencies most closely involved in its revitalization. In their own words:

  • Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell at groundbreaking for Olney and two other sites: “The investment in these communities will ensure these beloved sites continue to serve their neighborhoods for generations to come.”  
  • Rebuild Executive Director Kira Strong: “Acknowledging the unique history of each site while meaningfully engaging the community allows us to invest intentionally to create robust public spaces.”    
  • Councilmember Cherelle Parker, representing the 9th Council District: “In the years to come, this state-of-the art facility will serve as a gathering place for neighbors and families, provide our youth with a safe haven that meets their educational, social, and recreational needs, and offer a neighborhood-centered facility of culture and entertainment for residents across generations and ethnicities in this community.”
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Groundbreaking ceremony on September 30, 2021. Photo courtesy of Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) and Rebuild Philadelphia.