The Water Tower Recreation Center.

by Brendan Sample

In a move that will help it to make some major improvements in the long term, the Water Tower Recreation Center was recently approved for a grant from the Community Design Collaborative. The grant will go toward the Water Tower Master Plan, which will ultimately outline specific repairs, renovations and additions to the property and the surrounding area.

While the Master Plan does not currently outline any specific ideas, the Water Tower is looking to the community to pitch its own ideas, from minor fixes to significant additions and anything in between.

“I’m most excited about getting the entire Northwest Philadelphia community involved in this process,” said Craig Hosay, a longtime member of the Water Tower Advisory Council and the Chestnut Hill Sports Club, which will be heading up this project. “I look forward to having in-depth discussions on what people would like to see for the Water Tower and how they could see it being a more central pillar of Northwest Philly so that the community can utilize the facilities to a much higher degree than how they’re currently being used.”

The grant is a bit unconventional, however, in the sense that it will not be providing direct funding to the organization. Rather, it will help the Water Tower to secure the professionals necessary to complete whatever tasks it will end up needing to do. The organization will mainly be looking to recruit volunteer planners, engineers and other designers looking for exposure, but the grant will allow the group to assist with any financial compensation that professionals may require.

While this project is independent of Philadelphia’s Rebuild program, it is still working in conjunction with Rebuild. Instead of relying on funds from the city, the Water Tower will look to the private sector to help provide funds beyond what it will receive from the grant.

“Many people will assume that this is part of Rebuild, but this started independently of it,” Hosay said. “We’ve been monitoring the progress of Rebuild, and we support the initiative, but this doesn’t require any of that funding. We would certainly welcome working with whatever’s been established by Rebuild if it’s in agreement with what we’re ultimately trying to do.”

Although the organization has been approved for the grant, fully receiving it is actually contingent on a $1,500 down payment and a presentation of a community initiative. Calling the payment a “show of good faith,” Hosay was unable to confirm the specific amount of the grant, but continued to affirm that it will be of notable help for the group going forward.

Perhaps even more so than the grant or any other funding, it seems that this project will rely on community input. The WTAC is hopeful that ideas from area residents will help to fuel this initiative and turn the Water Tower into the community center it hopes that it can become.

“The potential of the Water Tower and its facilities hasn’t been fully realized yet,” Hosay explained. “We approached this project without a particular agenda. We’re very consciously not trying to pick winners, losers or any other sides. We want to encourage everyone to get involved and pitch their ideas. If people feel that an idea is important, we want them to make their idea heard so that it can potentially be added to the master plan.”

The grant and further plans for it will be discussed in more detail at the WTAC board meeting this Thursday, June 8. The meeting will be held in the main building of the Water Tower in the first floor computer room. Anyone interested in this project in any capacity is encouraged to attend.

Brendan Sample can be reached at brendan@chestnuthilllocal.com

 

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