Trying to bring more 'green' to Bainbridge Street
A local community group wants to transform a narrow strip of land into an inviting string of parks.
IF ALL GOES according to plan during the next few years, Bainbridge Green could blossom into a gem of a gathering spot for the Queen Village community.
What's that? You say you've never heard of Bainbridge Green?
Then pull up a chair, dear reader.
If you've ever embarked on an expletive-filled attempt to find parking near the funky mix of shops and restaurants that inhabit South Street, there's a good chance you've turned down nearby Bainbridge Street, where dozens of parking spots ring a pair of narrow, tree-lined islands between 3rd Street and Passyunk Avenue.
That's Bainbridge Green.
The area was home generations ago to a thriving immigrant marketplace, and later gave way to a lush park, said Jonathan Rubin, the head of the Friends of Bainbridge Green.
"It was gorgeous," Rubin said earlier this week, "but then the car became king, and the city cut out about a third of the park to make room for parking."
But the current configuration could soon change.
The Friends of Bainbridge Green, which is part of the Queen Village Neighbors Association, will have renderings of an ambitious redesign proposal on hand during a community festival that will unfold from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.
The new vision, which was crafted by the Community Design Collaborative, calls for the strips to widen by about 6 or 7 feet, Rubin said, creating enough space for pedestrians to stroll under the existing towering trees.
Rubin said the parking spots that circle the islands would remain, but the number of traffic lanes on the westbound side of Bainbridge would decrease from two to one.
Expanded plazas would also bookend the island that stretches from 4th Street to Passyunk.
"We could have small music events, Saturday-morning art classes or a midweek farmers market," said Rubin, 43, who has lived across from Bainbridge Green for 12 years.
The project is still in its infancy. Rubin said the community group needs to get a traffic study done and hire an architectural firm that could draw up definitive plans. The group would also have to raise about $3 million to fund the redesign.
"It's an incredibly important piece of real estate," said Rubin, who is among the local residents who regularly volunteer to clean up the islands. "It's not just a park. This space could bring people out to shop, and bring people out to be together."
"I think it could definitely help the neighborhood," said Pat Moreta, studio manager of Painting with a Twist, at Bainbridge and Passyunk.
"If they could add some lighting, it could make the corners less spooky at night."
Scott Lean, owner of Philly Sweettooth, a candy shop at 4th and Bainbridge, said he thought local residents would appreciate the added greenery.
"It would be nice, ideally, because you mainly have homeless people hanging around there now, or people dumping trash all over the place," he said.
"But I don't think it's going to draw any businesses to the area."