Venice Island

Venice Island Lands 'Environmental Project of the Year' Award

Renderings (at left) of the Performing Arts Center and Head House compared to the finished buildings, at right.
Renderings (at left) of the Performing Arts Center and Head House compared to the finished buildings, at right. Image credit: Hazen and Sawyer.

We’re extremely proud of the way Philadelphia Water’s construction team and engineers made what was once just a grand idea—the Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center—into a reality.

It’s hard not to admire their work when you see that sloping, living green roof from Main Street in Manayunk, and it gets even better when you explore the facility up close.

So, it’s no surprise that the work at Venice Island, which was completed at the end of 2014, was just named “Environmental Project of the Year” by the Construction Management Association of America’s Mid-Atlantic chapter. The award was presented for the “Manayunk Venice Island Sewer Basin Construction/Performing Arts and Recreation Center Reconstruction” on June 2 to Philadelphia Water and Hazen and Sawyer, the project’s designer of record.

“This award recognizes Philadelphia Water’s role in providing construction management services that promoted professionalism in the construction process and resulted in a successful project,” said Philadelphia Water Construction Manager Bob Rotermund. “Our team, led by Jim Giffear and Attasit Kaewvichen, kept the project within budget and on schedule.”

Giffear, a Division Engineer in Philadelphia Water’s Construction Branch, said the project was a special one because it brought so many positive changes to the area, which sits between the Manayunk Canal and the Schuylkill River.

“We were able to construct a facility which serves to protect the Schuylkill River from combined sewer overflows during large storm events, while at the same time providing an amazing recreation and entertainment space for the citizens of Philadelphia,” said Giffear. “[Philadelphia Water Commissioner] Howard Neukrug was instrumental in creating the partnerships between the various city agencies and community groups necessary for Venice Island to become a reality.”

Giffear said this award reflects Philadelphia Water’s commitment to quality management of its construction projects, community engagement, and partnerships with city agencies.

“What makes this project unique is the construction of a true multiple-use site. On one side of the island sits a wastewater pumping station, underground is a 4 million gallon basin, and up above houses basketball courts, an outdoor amphitheater, children’s spray park, and a 250-seat performing arts center, with public parking throughout,” said Giffear. “The CMAA award is in recognition of the technical and logistical challenges faced by such a multifaceted project, and the teamwork, professionalism, quality control, and communication necessary to make it a success.”

That CMAA highlighted the environmental aspects of the Venice Island work also speaks to Philadelphia Water’s commitment to green stormwater management initiatives and environmentally conscious building materials and methods, Giffear also noted.

Leo Dignam, deputy commissioner for programs at Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, said the Performing Arts Center has also been a huge hit.

“We are thrilled at how it turned out and have been booked almost from the day we took over,” said Dignam. “The outside space and environmental features are extraordinary and go above and beyond what we would ever have been able to do on our own. I think this project is a model of the way city departments can coordinate with the community.”

Some Green Highlights from Venice Island:

• Countless sustainable site and building features throughout Venice Island. The basin, in addition to being an environmentally focused infrastructure improvement, includes a pump station which is LEED eligible. The building is furnished with a high-tech window system that makes maximum use of natural light and reduces heat gain, promoting energy efficiency in the facility. Atop the pump house sits a green roof containing drought tolerant plant species which minimize the stormwater impact of the building.

• The site features numerous green design components. There are several rain garden systems which collect street-level stormwater runoff and allow it to slowly infiltrate in place, before returning it to the sewer system. Boulders were reclaimed from earlier excavation activities and repurposed for landscape features. Additionally, the site lights are all low voltage LED fixtures, which are controlled by photocells and are only illuminated when necessary.

• The Performing Arts Center likewise contains numerous sustainable design features, such as a green roof. Stormwater that falls on the building is collected and stored in “graywater” holding tanks. That captured stormwater is then reused in the facility for non-potable applications.

Hazen and Sawyer’s Work at Venice Island

As “designers of record” at Venice Island, Hazen and Sawyer designed an innovative, LEED Silver-eligible structure to house the equipment associated with the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) detention facilities, comprised primarily of a concrete basin that receives flows by gravity when the adjacent interceptor becomes surcharged during storm events. The CSO detention basin was constructed underground, with public parking and facilities redesigned and restored atop the basin.
The Head House that sits atop the basin is a LEED Silver-eligible building with numerous energy-saving and sustainable design measures.

Hazen and Sawyer’s design includes a “living” roof system with drought-resistant plantings; rain gardens throughout the site to manage storm water runoff; a glass stair tower to allow light to enter all sides of the building and reduce the need for interior lighting; light and occupancy sensors for energy efficiency; shade and reflection devices for sun control that reduces the need for air conditioning; and water-conserving plumbing fixtures.

Award Acknowledgements: Philadelphia Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug, Robert Rotermund (Manager, Construction Branch), Mike Lavery (Manager, Design Branch), Attasit Kaewvichien (Division Engineer, Construction Branch), Tony Kopicki (Asst. Manager, Construction Branch), Jim Giffear (Division Engineer, Construction Branch) and Anant Rao (Electrical Engineer, Construction Branch)

Do You Know What's Happening at Venice Island?

No? Come out to Main and Lock streets in Manayunk tonight at 6 p.m. and get the inside scoop along with a free scoop of ice cream. 

Cyclists in Manayunk stop to ask about the new Waterways artwork. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
Cyclists stop to ask about the new Waterways artwork in Manayunk. Credit: Philadelphia Water. 

While we were working with Mural Arts to install artist Eurhi JonesWaterways, a 10-block string of colorful steppingstones in Manayunk, our public engagement team took the time to do an informal survey of people passing through the neighborhood.

During the first two weeks of May, we spoke with 113 people at Pretzel Park, on Main Street, and at Venice Island–all places now featuring the temporary street art of Waterways

What we found reinforces our motivation for creating Waterways in the first place, and shows a definitive gap between what people want for the Schuylkill River and what they know about the work being done to make that desire a reality.

First, we asked people if they knew about the Philadelphia Water improvements that debuted at Venice Island in October 2014. Those improvements include a massive stormwater basin that keeps as much as 4 million gallons of untreated water from entering the Schuylkill as well as Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center.

Of the 113 people we spoke to, just 11 said they knew about Philadelphia Water’s work at Venice Island. 

That lack of knowledge is precisely why we wanted to use art as a means of highlighting infrastructure. The work we do can be a little hard to wrap your head around if you aren’t an engineer or environmental scientist. Waterways uses compelling imagery to draw people toward the somewhat hidden grounds of Venice Island, where signs help to explain what the infrastructure–much of it shielded from view beneath the ground–is doing to make the Schuylkill a cleaner, healthier river.

And, if our informal little survey tells us anything, it’s that people really do care about making our rivers healthier places where both people and wildlife can thrive. When asked whether they support improving the health of our waterways, all 113 people said yes. People were also unanimously positive when asked if they think waterways can be incorporated into our city’s public spaces for recreation.

So, people want cleaner rivers and they want them to be a part of our recreational lives: places where we can fish, hike, go boating and more. Yet very few people seem to know what a huge public effort has been made in the pursuit of those goals.

Tonight, people will have a chance to learn about what Philadelphia Water is doing for the Schuylkill as we unveil  Waterways at a 6 p.m. ceremony and ice cream party (the treats are on us). Join us at Main and Lock streets, tour the artwork with Eurhi Jones, and educate yourself about how we’re working to make the Schuylkill the river we all want it to be.

If you can’t make it tonight, find us on Venice Island this Saturday during the PLAY Manayunk festival, and help spread the word about Philadelphia Water and Waterways to your neighbors. After all, it’s your informed support that makes fighting for the health of our rivers possible.

Follow along on social media: @PhillyH20 on Twitter  and Instagram and Facebook.com/PhillyH2O and use #phillywaterart to see what is being posted about Waterways!

Big Reveal: See 'Waterways' at Unveiling Party, PLAY Manayunk

'Waterways' will be introduced May 14, followed by PLAY Manayunk on May 16.
'Waterways' will be introduced May 14, followed by PLAY Manayunk on May 16. Credit: Tiffany Ledesma

Those walking the streets of Manayunk have probably noticed a little extra pop of color in the neighborhood, and not just from the spring foliage. Since the first week of May, the folks over at sign&design have been busy working to install over 50 pieces of temporary street art designed by local artist Eurhi Jones for our Waterways project. Created through a partnership with Mural Arts, Waterways wanders from Pretzel Park in central Manayunk down Main Street and to Venice Island, which sits between the Manayunk Canal and the Schuylkill River. 

It’s one of the biggest street art installations ever for Mural Arts, and the whole project will be unveiled on Thursday, May 14, with a public celebration at 6 p.m. that includes a tour with the artist and free ice cream. According to Mural Arts, the installation should survive weather and traffic conditions for 3 to 4 months, so Waterways will be a highly visible part of the Manayunk experience throughout the summer.  

So, why is a public utility like Philadelphia Water working with Mural Arts? Waterways is our way of highlighting the importance of a healthy Schuylkill River–health that is greatly enhanced by our recent stormwater management improvements at the Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center.

Officially introduced in the fall of 2014, our renovations at Venice Island include a storage basin that can keep about 180 SEPTA buses worth – four million gallons – of untreated water from rushing into the Schuylkill during heavy rains. Other features include tree planters and a green roof to slow rainwater and a pump house that sends excess water from the basin to a treatment plant. All of that is good news for the shad, herons and crayfish featured in Waterways. It’s also good news for the many, many people who rely on a clean Schuylkill as their source for quality drinking water.

Now, people who see the artwork, which makes unique use of vinyl as a medium, can follow the steppingstones of Waterways through the neighborhood and to Venice Island and learn more about why this kind of infrastructure is so important for the health of our city and our waters. We're also hoping they’ll learn more about the amazing recreational amenities we brought to Venice Island with the help of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation.        

Speaking of recreation, Philadelphia Water will also be at the PLAY Manayunk festival on Saturday (May 16) as the Manayunk Development Corporation and others celebrate all the amazing exercise and play opportunities in the neighborhood with activities like an attempt to break the world record for group sit-ups. We will have a booth where people can learn more about Waterways and our work at Venice Island while doing fun water-related art projects with Mural Arts. PLAY Manaunk kicks off with a race at 8 a.m. and wraps up with the simultaneous sit-up challenge from 1-2 p.m. 

Other activities include nature hikes, yoga classes, kayak and dragon boat rides, dance lessons, old-school kid's games, crafts, food trucks, music, performances, and more.

We hope you’ll come out to one or both of these events and learn more about the great work we are doing to improve the health of your local waterways. 

If you’re in the neighborhood and like the art, take a photo and share it on social media with the hashtag #phillywaterart to see who else is enjoying Waterways!

For more on Waterways visit phillywatersheds.org/phillywaterart

Follow along on social media: @PhillyH20 on Twitter  and Instagram and Facebook.com/PhillyH2O

Venice Island is Opening!

Aerial rendering of Venice Island

After years of hard work and collaboration between the
Philadelphia Water Department, Philadelphia Parks and Recreations, and the
Manayunk community, Venice Island will open to the public! Join us next week
on October 7, 2014 at 11:00 AM for the official opening and ribbon cutting
event to celebrate the completion of the Venice Island Performing Arts &
Recreation Center, the Philadelphia Water Department storage basin unit, and
green storm water infrastructure projects at the site. Guests will include Mayor
Michael Nutter, Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. Deputy Mayor for Community and
Environmental Resources Michael DiBerardinis, Water Commissioner Howard
Neukrug, and Chief Cultural Officer Helen Haynes. There will be musical
entertainment, tours of the green infrastructure projects, performances at the
Venice Island Performing Arts & Recreation Center, and outdoor,
site-specific art installations on display.

The Venice Island project is located between the Manayunk Canal
and the Schuylkill River, between the Lock and Cotton Street bridges in
Manayunk. The Philadelphia Water Department designed the project to include
tree trenches, a pump house with a green roof, and a subsurface basin that will
temporarily store diverted flow from the sanitary interceptor sewer during
intense rain storms. The basin capable of storing nearly four million gallons
of water–roughly 180 SEPTA buses–that are later pumped out and directed to
a treatment plant. The project not only protects and improves the health of the
Schuylkill River, but also includes a full-scale reconstruction of the
recreational facilities and community amenities, including a new
state-of-the-art recreation and performing arts facility, new athletic fields,
a children’s play area and spray park, and a new parking lot. Read more about this exciting project.

We hope to see you at the opening day!

Date: Tuesday, October 7th

Time: 11:00 AM

Location: 1 Cotton Street (in Manayunk), Philadelphia, PA 19127

Venice Island Enters Its Final Phase

 


For nearly two years, the Philadelphia Water Department has been working on Venice Island in Manayunk, the site of community amenities including basketball courts, a recreation center and parking. But these facilities have been demolished because this small strip of land between the Schuylkill River and the Manayunk Canal was chosen as the site for an underground storage basin capable of holding nearly four million gallons of stormwater. The project will reduce demands on existing stormwater infrastructure in the Manayunk area and in turn protect and improve the health of the Schuylkill River. In addition to managing stormwater, the project will transform a declining area into a renewed public space. Hidden City wrote a fantastic piece in April that digs deeply into the community aspects of this project.


Indeed, the Water Department emphasized community input in the planning process to develop a design that results in a full-scale reconstruction of the site’s parking and recreational facilities.  Once completed, the site will include a new performing arts center, a children’s play area, a renovated parking lot and athletic courts.  What’s more, the site will feature a number of green stormwater infrastructure tools including tree trenches and a green roof on the PWD pump house.  Furthermore, PWD and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation are working together to make improvements to the Manayunk Canal to restore water flow, which will include dredging and modification to the spillway at Flat Rock Dam. 


While two years may seem like a long time, PWD and its contractors are right on schedule and entering the last phase of work.  The basin is up and running and the upgraded recreational facilities and parking areas are scheduled to be fully completed by the beginning of next year. Stay tuned for a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the public space in April 2014. For more details on Venice Island, head over to the project page.

Venice Island Groundbreaking


Photo: Matthew Grady/for NewsWorks

On Tuesday morning, Mayor Michael Nutter and other city officials (pictured above) dug in and broke ground on Venice Island in Manayunk, the site of a $46 million project whose main component is a large underground storage basin that will prevent stormwater runoff from entering the Schuylkill River. While Venice Island's "Big Tank" is the star attraction from an infrastructure standpoint (the basin can store nearly 4 million gallons of water), the initiation of a host of other projects in and around Manayunk—from trail improvements and murals to stormwater management projects—were also celebrated.

From WHYY's NewsWorks article:

"Joanne Dahme, Public Affairs Manager for PWD, discussed the intent of the Venice Island project, saying that while the thrust of the project is 'all about protecting the water for residents of the city,' she was quick to point out potential for recreation at the site.

'There are incredible recreational opportunities here,' said Dahme, adding that she envisions the river becoming increasingly "fishable, swimmable, and drinkable.'"

In addition to the underground basin, the Philadelphia Water Department is also overseeing construction of a pump house on Venice Island with a green roof and is undertaking improvements to the Manayunk Canal. Stay tuned for more details on those projects. For additional information on Venice Island and to sign up for e-mail updates, visit our Venice Island page.

Venice Island Update


Image: Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. Click for full size map and PDF of trail closure details.

The construction of an underground storage basin at Venice Island is underway, and demolition of the existing recreation facilities is complete. Also, clearing and grubbing has wrapped up. This is the process of tagging existing trees and vegetation that will remain and removing vegetation that is not part of the final landscape plan. Many trees that existed on the island will remain a part of the completed landscape.

Next up: construction of the temporary parking lot where the recreation  facilities used to be. The construction of the parking lot should be complete by mid-December. PWD's contractors and the Manayunk Development Corporation will install signs to alert patrons of the changes in parking and traffic. We will be sure to provide firm dates as soon as we have them.

Stay tuned for more info on the Venice Island groundbreaking ceremony on November 1 at 10:30 a.m. Join Mayor Michael Nutter, Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler, PWD Commissioner Howard Neukrug and others as we celebrate the beginning of the various projects going on in Manayunk.

Take note: The entire length of the Manayunk Canal Towpath will be closed to all trail users as Philadelphia Parks & Recreation perform necessary improvements. Work is scheduled from October to the end of December 2011.

Sign up here for email updates on Venice Island.

Wrecking The Rec Center


Video: NewsWorks

Even if you don't care about stormwater management (and it's our sworn duty to insist you really should), who doesn't like to watch stuff get wrecked? WHYY's NewsWorks posted a time-lapse video (above) of the demolition of the old Venice Island recreation center. It's all part of PWD's two-year, $40 million project to install a 4 million-gallon underground storage basin and revamp the area with a new performing arts space, children's play area (including a sprayground) and parking space. Read the accompanying NewsWorks article here.

Click here to learn more about the Venice Island project and check out our recent post on how the storage basin may have controlled flooding in Manayunk due to Hurricane Irene.

What Would Venice Island Do?


Rendering of Venice Island project in Manayunk

WHYY's NewsWorks asked the question: How would the new Venice Island water basin have fared in Hurricane Irene?

If you were tuned in to local TV news over the weekend, you probably saw the situation in Manayunk: flooded roads near Main Street and Shurs Lane. Could the underground storage basin on nearby Venice Island—construction is just underway—have helped alleviate the flooding?

"At 400 feet long, 75 feet wide and 25 feet deep, the new basin will catch and temporarily store diverted storm flow from the sanitary sewer running along the Manayunk Canal. But would the new tank have prevented or lessened the hurricane-level flooding that doused part of Main Street over the weekend?

The short answer, officials say: Probably.

'This is a big tank but this was also a pretty good storm -- about 5 ½ inches over a 24-hour period,' [PWD spokeswoman Joanne] Dahme said in an email Monday. 'Without the modeling to confirm, we believe it would have worked well in this storm as rainfall was fairly steady, dispersed over a long period of time.'"

Click here for more information on the Venice Island project and to sign up for email updates.

The Big News: Venice Island


Rendering of completed Venice Island project

Beginning next week, Manayunk's Venice Island—a strip of land situated between the Manayunk Canal and the Schuylkill River—will undergo a $46 million makeover that includes the construction of an underground storage basin, a new performing arts center, a children's play area and a new parking lot. This project is so big we've created our own blog category for it, as well as a web page with more details and updates as construction progresses. The underground basin will have the capacity to store four million gallons of water in an effort to protect and improve the health of the Schuylkill River. And, as reported in today's NewsWorks article, Venice Island's other new amenities will benefit the site as well:

"For decades, the Venice Island rec center was the site of community programs, summer swimming and nearly year-round athletics. A city photo from 1960 shows a tidy waterfront playground tucked between then-working railroad tracks and the Schuylkill, a lifetime away from the forbidding, overgrown place Venice Island became in recent years.

In its new incarnation, the hockey rink and 3,200 square-foot playground area at Venice Island will be replaced one-for-one. The pool is being scrapped in favor of a spray ground area, and the basketball courts will be enlarged slightly to make them NCAA-regulation sized.

The performing arts center will also serve as a home base for the Parks and Recreation Department's Young Performers Theater Camp, which currently operates out of rented space at the Annenberg Center, [PWD's Joanne] Dahme said.

'This is a tight little island, so we're trying to squeeze as much as we can on here,' she said."

Another rendering of the site after the jump.

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