Sacred Places/Civic Spaces initiative highlights the economic halo effect of congregations and their buildings, and their power to serve, stabilize, and revitalize communities
PHILADELPHIA—(December 5, 2018)—The Community Design Collaborative, in partnership with Partners for Sacred Places, hosts the Public Reveal and Final Jury Review for its Sacred Places/Civic Spaces design challenge. The goal of the initiative is to determine how historic sacred places can support civic engagement, social cohesion, and neighborhood equity.
Three religious sites, three community organizations, and three design teams are collaborating to re-envision historic purpose-built religious properties as community hubs. The teams, each matched up with one of three sacred spaces selected through a competitive process, have been working on transformative design concepts for the sites since the summer. A crucial element of the design process has been community engagement, with each team engaging the congregation, community partners, and neighbors in asset mapping, concept development, and developing initial designs.
“Sacred places are well-positioned to serve their surrounding communities and, in an overwhelming majority of cases, are already doing just that,” said Beth Miller, Executive Director of the Community Design Collaborative. “93% of congregations actively serve the larger community and make their buildings available to outreach programs, crossing denominational, racial and regional lines.”
Studies show that sacred places are often the most trusted institution by parents, children, and seniors—those that naturally benefit from the invisible safety net these spaces provide.
87% of the beneficiaries of community programs and events that take place at sacred places are not members of the associated religious congregation, and the programs and services, ranging from substance abuse groups to after school programs, add an average value of $100,000. Thanks to urban sacred places, housing values in communities rise, crime rates drop, and individuals and families get the help they need.
“Not only are sacred places designed to serve the diverse needs of the entire community, but congregations in urban settings have an average economic impact of $1.7 million each year—we call it an economic halo effect,” said Bob Jaeger, President of Partners for Sacred Places. “Initiatives like Sacred Places/Civic Spaces highlight the enormous potential to increase that value.”
The Community Design Collaborative and Partners for Sacred Places selected three religious sites across Philadelphia, along with community partner organizations, to serve as models for incorporating civic spaces into active but underutilized sacred places. Three multidisciplinary design teams were chosen and paired with each site to re-envision the purpose-built religious properties as community hubs.
These partnerships seek to strengthen relationships between sacred places, community organizations, and service providers with a mutual interest in co-location and cooperation, to accomplish three goals:
Promote understanding of the realities faced by a diversity of faith communities stewarding historic properties in neighborhoods and offer alternative options;
Challenge the notion that sale and subsequent adaptive reuse or demolition are the only options facing declining congregation; and
Provide innovative models and prototypes in which religious buildings house a multitude of co-existing uses for community benefit.
“In Philadelphia, many communities are in transition, and it just makes sense to look to sacred places as the community hubs that they were intended to be,” said Miller. “Sacred Places/Civic Spaces explores what can and should be done to preserve, protect and re-purpose sacred places as civic spaces that can be open to all.”
The final designs, revealed at an event last night, include:
4700 Wyalusing Avenue | Mill Creek
Congregation: The Philadelphia Masjid
Community Partner: The People's Emergency Center
Design Partners: HOK (lead); J+M Engineering; Tutor Perini Building Corp.; Alisa McCann
5341 Catharine Street | Cobbs Creek
Congregation: Wharton-Wesley United Methodist Church
Community Partner: ACHIEVEability
Design Partners: Brawer & Hauptman Architects (lead); Alderson Engineering, Inc.; Orndorf & Associates, Inc., Powers & Company, Inc.; The Sullivan Company
3600/3601 N. Broad Street | Nicetown-Tioga
Congregation: Zion Baptist Church
Community Partner: Called to Serve CDC
Design Partners: Studio 6mm (lead); Kate Cowing Architect LLC; Keast & Hood; Burns Engineering, Inc.; International Consultants, Inc.
An expert jury, which included the following stakeholders, reviewed each of the designs and offered feedback.
Kimberly Allen | Wells Fargo Regional Foundation
The Rev. Canon Kirk Berlenbach | The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania
Mary Werner Denadai, FAIA | John Milner Architects
Anne Fadullon | Director of Planning & Development, City of Philadelphia
Dr. W. Wilson Goode, Sr. | Amachi
Alan Greenberger, FAIA | Drexel University, Dept. Of Architecture, Design & Urbanism
Emanuel Kelly, FAIA | Kelly/Maiello Architects
David La Fontaine | Community Ventures
Brian Murray | Shift Capital
Angel Rodriguez | Philadelphia Land Bank
Daniela Holt Voith, FAIA | Voith & Mactavish LLP
Infill Philadelphia is an initiative of the Community Design Collaborative to explore key community development challenges and opportunities through design. The initiative engages communities in re-envisioning their neighborhoods, leveraging existing assets, rethinking the use of older spaces, and addressing the practical concerns of specific sites and the communities around them. Infill Philadelphia has previously addressed play space, green stormwater infrastructure, the reuse of industrial sites, food access, commercial corridor revitalization, and affordable housing.
About Infill Philadelphia: Sacred Places/Civic Spaces
Sacred Places/Civic Spaces is a partnership between the Community Design Collaborative and Partners for Sacred Places to re-envision underutilized, purpose-built religious properties as community hubs. The initiative will add the design and development community's voice to a growing dialogue about the intersection between historic sacred places and communities. It will strengthen relationships between sacred places, community organizations, and service providers with a mutual interest in co-location. Sacred Places/Civic Spaces is funded by the William Penn Foundation.
About Community Design Collaborative
The Community Design Collaborative is a volunteer-based community design center that provides pro bono preliminary design services to nonprofits; promotes best practices in community design and development; and offers design professionals a unique way to volunteer their skills in service of neighborhoods. Founded in 1991 as a program of AIA Philadelphia, the Collaborative is an independent 501 (c)(3).
About Partners for Sacred Places
Partners for Sacred Places is the only national, non-sectarian, nonprofit organization focused on building the capacity of congregations of historic sacred places to better serve their communities as anchor institutions, nurturing transformation, and shaping vibrant, creative communities. Founded in 1989, Partners has built a national movement based on its ability to assess issues, map assets, find solutions, and create optimism and hope for the future of our historic, purpose-built sacred places.
Site & Team Contacts
Site 1 | The Philadelphia Masjid | “Building Blocks”
Site/Congregation: The Philadelphia Masjid/Sister Clara Muhammad CDC
Aazim Muhammad | President/CEO
Community Partner: People’s Emergency Center
James Wright | Dir. of Community, Economic, & Real Estate Development
Design Team: HOK
Site 2 | Wharton-Wesley United Methodist Church | “Community Cornerstone”
Site/Congregation: Wharton Wesley United Methodist Church
Rev David Brown | Community Pastor
Community Partner: Achievability
Erika Tapp | Director of Community Services
Design Team: Brawer & Hauptman, Architects
Site 3 | Zion Baptist Church | “Corridor Connections”
Site/Congregation: Zion Baptist Church
Rev Michael Major
Community Partner: Called to Serve CDC
Rev Michael Major
Design Team: Studio 6mm