The Singing Fountain, which stands at the intersections of Passyunk Avenue, Tasker Avenue, and South 11th Street, was installed in 2004, and is maintained by the Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corporation (PARC). The small triangle was created in the mid-19th century when the original street grid of William Penn’s Philadelphia was extended into the township of Southwark, which is now divided into Passyunk and many other neighborhoods. When the automobile arrived in Philadelphia a century and half later, a gas station stood at the site. After the station was abandoned by the late 20th century, a cheesesteak shop occupied the space for the first years of the 21st century.
In 2004, the 3,000 square foot parcel was purchased and transformed into a public plaza. Renovations to the site included the building’s raising, installation of fountain infrastructure, and the plaza construction. Not yet installed with speakers that make the fountain “sing,” the result was called the Tasker Street Fountain. The revitalization is credited as inspiring the local restaurants to locate here, making Passyunk Avenue what it is today. Community members requested a European style fountain, resulting in cherubs, storks, and mermaids pouring streams into stacked renaissance inspired chalices. Since then, it has been the center of the neighborhood and the Passyunk Avenue commercial corridor.
The stewards of the fountain, PARC, made further improvements to create a more welcoming and active space to serve the growing community. In 2011, PARC removed the fence surrounding the fountain, added trees, and installed chess boards and benches, as well as restored the fountain. The site was reopened with a block party later that summer and remains a location for neighbors to gather, as well as farmers’ markets, marriage proposals, weddings, choirs, Christmas trees, and more. While PARC spends $20,000 per year on maintenance, the fountain is in need of restoration. Early estimates to repair cracked tile and marble, and repair drainage are approximately $30,000. Additionally, there are concerns about people of all ages accessing the plaza safely.
During COVID-19 there is a renewed interest in the value of public space. The small size of the plaza, just 3,000 square feet, is further limited by the amenities and utilities that reside there. Now, more than ever, outdoor public spaces are the centers of communities. They are indispensable assets that foster neighbor to neighbor connections, and sense of place. PARC is dedicated to providing the more inviting and comfortable space for the neighborhood as possible. Therefore, PARC is once again taking on the project of reimagining how the space can serve its community. The question that stands before the neighbors is: Is it time to consider a plaza renovation and extension?