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View Looking NorthEast from North Broad Street

Sacred Places , Civic Spaces

Studio 6mm is proud to participate in the Community Design Collaborative’s latest Infill Philadelphia Design Challenge to Preserve, Protect, and Re-Purpose Sacred Places in Philadelphia as Transformed Civic Spaces  

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.

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.”


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 spacegreen stormwater infrastructure, the reuse of industrial sitesfood accesscommercial corridor revitalization, and affordable housing.