Centennial Commons opens at the site of the nation's first World's Fair

Steve Tawa
June 13, 2018 - 5:02 pm
Centennial Commons

Steve Tawa | KYW Newsradio

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WEST PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A ribbon-cutting at one of the gateways to West Fairmount Park displayed the first phase of Centennial Commons at the Parkside Edge.

"Parkside now has this new park within the park," said Fairmount Park Conservancy Executive Director Jamie Gauthier.

Gauthier said the enhancements include dozens of new shaded trees, perennials, grasses and shrubs, sitting areas, benches, swings, and a traffic calming streetscape.

"Seniors love it," noted Lorraine Gomez, who lives nearby on the historic Viola Street. "The children love it."

Her block was built in advance of the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 — the first World's Fair in the U.S. — which drew more than 9 million visitors, equating to roughly 20 percent of the U.S. population. 

But she said it has been left underdeveloped and under-supported for decades.

"This is the Parkside Edge. If you go into any other city, the Edge would be spectacular. We are trying to catch up," she said.

Enjoying a water ice next to her was her neighbor, Juanita McFadden, who lives on nearby Cambridge Street. 

"This was not my first go-to spot in the park," she laughed. "[But> this is more inviting than what was here."

It's part of a three-year, $14 million project to reimagine the site. Looking ahead, the Fairmount Park Conservancy will continue to fundraise for future phases of Centennial Commons, including play areas in nature for youngsters with water features.