A Creative Urban Pop-Up Park That Is Making A Difference

– Posted in: Garden Design

When a few of the Drexel students working with me at Lombard Center Community Garden told me that I needed to check out the latest in Philadelphia’s Pop-Up gardens down at the waterfront, I knew it was a ‘must see’.


Urban Gardening

Spruce Street Harbor Park

Although it’s described as a ‘summer pop-up park complete with a boardwalk, urban beach, floating barges, mist walk, lily pad gardens, hammock gardens, and more’ on its website, Spruce Street Harbor Park–A Creative Urban Pop-Up Park That Is Making A Difference, feels more Key West, Fla. than Ocean City, N.J.

An Urban Garden That Works

Spruce Street Harbor Pop-Up Park- an urban park that works

What separates this park from anything else I’ve seen in Philadelphia is that even on a blazing hot summer day, the dozens of hammocks strategically placed with friends, lovers, and families relaxing on them makes you feel that you’ve stumbled into another world – one where people are hanging, connecting, swinging, and just enjoying being with each other cushioned by the shade of the trees and the river near by. There is something incredibly old-fashioned and heartwarming about this vignette.

Spruce Street Harbor Pop-Up Garden

Relaxing on hammocks at Spruce Street Harbor Pop-Up Park

As stated in the literature “The Spruce Street Harbor Park at the Penn’s Landing Marina is a two-month summer program throughout July and August that  brings a boardwalk, urban beach, fountains, and misting areas to the Delaware River Waterfront. The centerpiece of the project is a series of floating barges complete with lily pad water gardens, a pop-up restaurant and bar, and nets that suspend visitors over the water. The full design of the project includes the landscaping and programming help evoke the maritime history of the area, and helps celebrate the River’s industrial past and the bright future ahead for Philadelphia’s waterfront. ”

Funky Urban Gardening

Floating Gardens at Spruce Street Harbor Pop-Up Park


Using container gardening as a vertical wall

Container Gardening at Spruce Street Harbor Park

I love how (in the picture above) an eye sore has been transformed into a hanging garden by using inexpensively priced containers and a slew of plantings that are dripping over the edge towards the water- creating an effect of a vertical garden.

This park is not meant to compete with other parks in the area. The Delaware River waterfront has historically been underutilized. And like so much of Philadelphia, hidden gems are only recently being discovered and utilized.

“Landscape architect David Fierabrand is the principal of Groundswell, the Hopewell, N.J.-based firm that took the lead on designing and building the temporary space. Groundswell already worked its botanical magic on Festival Pier, Morgan’s Pier and PHS pop-ups. “We really wanted to activate the water, to make it interesting enough that people come to it, and to make it artful,” Fierabrand said.” **

The project cost $500,000 paid for in part by a $310,000 grant for “creative placemaking” from the national organization ArtPlace.

How an Urban Park Makes A Difference

Kids on hammocks Spruce Street Harbor Pop-Up Park

Spruce Street Pop-Up Park is one of many urban parks that is helping to infuse Philadelphia with a feeling of playfulness and love and a sense of place.  The City of Brotherly Love is finally hitting its stride and becoming the world class urban arena that a lot of us have dreamt about for years.

What do you think of it?

** quoted from Philadelphia Inquirer

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the recently published 10th Anniversary Edition of Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book".  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, and CBS Radio New correspondent.

Click on Fran's website, www.fransorin.com, to sign up to receive a free gift: "The 38 Creative Tips That Are Preventing You From Leading A Richer Life" and to read articles on creativity, well-being, gardening, and spirituality.  

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Fran Sorin

9 Comments… add one

Leave a Comment

sheila schultz July 31, 2014, 11:52 am

What an incredibly beautiful space for the community.

michaele anderson July 31, 2014, 3:13 pm

Wow, that “floating garden” concept is so fun. I have never seen such a thing and I love it to death. I have a multi pond feature as part of my landscaping and my brain is on overdrive thinking how I could pull such a thing off. Thanks so much

betsy/zen mama July 31, 2014, 10:20 pm

A great combination of land and water. I always love the gardens you highlight on your blog! Thanks for sharing this one.

Fran Sorin August 2, 2014, 4:55 am

Betsy- It is such a fun and funky place. It’s hard to believe that it’s a pop-up garden and will be taken down at the end of August.

Fran Sorin August 2, 2014, 4:56 am

Michaele- It is very cool – am glad you enjoyed. I’ll be interested in seeing how you’re going to create your own. Keep me posted on your progress. Fran

Fran Sorin August 2, 2014, 4:58 am

Sheila- It absolutely is one of the great delights that Philadelphia has created in its urban spaces….it’s filled with joy, whimsy, life and an authentic community feel. It doesn’t get much better than this…Fran

Gabriel T. August 2, 2014, 9:04 am

I have to say that it looks really lovely ! The hammocks actually give you the feeling that “This is a place where I need to forget about my problems and just relax and enjoy life !”. My favorite things though are The floating gardens which look astounding ! Everybody who contributed did a great job here !

Fran Sorin August 3, 2014, 1:36 pm

The floating gardens are intriguing – and each one was planted by a different landscape gardener. I have never seen anything like it. And what I find most compelling is that even though the park feels very ‘un-Philadelphia’, when you put people in it, it becomes VERY much the people’s park. Just in the few photos I took, you can see how Philadelphians have owned it. I’m LOVING it!! Thanks for your comment.

John August 9, 2014, 10:24 am

Very cool indeed. It’s always impressive to see an underutilized (or even blighted) space turned into something beautiful.