THE RALPH BROOKS Tot Lot is supposed to be a safe haven for kids in Point Breeze who want to get some exercise and stay out of trouble.
But the bare-bones basketball court, at 20th and Tasker streets, feels anything but safe and welcoming.
If you set foot on the court, your eyes either find empty lots or an imposing three-story mural nearby that bares the names of dozens of local folks who have lost their lives to violence.
That gritty vision is set to soon change, thanks to an ambitious plan that's been crafted by a local nonprofit, city officials and longtime neighborhood residents.
Ade Fuqua, the city's assistant managing director, said the basketball court will receive a modern, eco-friendly makeover - complete with a rain garden - in the fall, thanks to donations totaling about $260,000 from City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, the Water Department and some private donors.
But the new court is just one part of the multipronged plan for Brooks.
Local developer Jeffrey Tubbs, whose nonprofit, Urban Roots, has been spearheading the effort to reimagine the playground, said a crowd-funding campaign for the project will be launched within the next week or two.
The goal, Tubbs said, is to expand beyond the basketball court onto other city-owned parcels nearby to bring a variety of much-needed services to the neighborhood.
"We want to bring something that's unique and special," Tubbs said.
"We imagine having an urban farm, a senior pavilion across the street from the basketball court where there can be intergenerational activities, like kids playing chess with older people."
The project could also bring affordable housing, a sporting-goods store and a commercial kiosk that sells fresh produce to the neighborhood.
Tubbs said the idea to transform Brooks and the surrounding community came about when he met Jahmall Crandall, a longtime Point Breeze resident who runs arts and athletic programs for kids in the neighborhood, through a mentoring program about a year ago.
"He's the anchor in the community," Tubbs said. "We're working as a team."
Fuqua, who has been working to make quality-of-life improvements to a small section of Point Breeze through the city's PhillyRising program, said residents are thrilled with the ideas being discussed for their long-neglected neighborhood.
"Folks are really excited," he said. "There's not a lot of options for the youth in this area. But we can do better."