To watch the Community Information Session, please click here. Below is the transcript from the meeting.
I’m Jeff Shanahan, President of the Cobbs Creek Foundation, and I want to thank you for joining us this evening.
Let’s begin with a brief history of Cobbs Creek: officially opening in 1916, Cobbs Creek was immediately recognized as one of the best golf courses in the country. Cobbs Creek was not just a golf course; it is a vital part of Philadelphia’s identity. And it was the epicenter of black golf in the nation, allowing black golfers to play at a time when most other courses did not. Charlie Sifford, the first Black player to win a PGA event, moved to Philadelphia in 1939 from Charlotte, North Carolina, while on a city bus on his way home from a night shift at the Nabisco plant. He noticed a black man on the bus with a set of golf clubs. He asked the man where he was going, the man said, I’m going to Cobbs Creek. Charlie Sifford followed him to Cobbs Creek and found out that there was this great golf course in Philadelphia that allowed everyone to play. In the early 1940s, Cobbs Creek was the home of many talented black golfers including the great Howard Wheeler. Unfortunately, the PGA Tour had a Caucasian-only clause during this time, but Charlie Sifford became the first black golfer to break the color barrier on the PGA Tour in 1969. He was also the first black golfer to win an official PGA Tour event. For the rest of his career, Charlie Sifford called Cobbs Creek his home course. The project that we’re embarking on is a public-private partnership. The City of Philadelphia does not have the financial capability to reopen or maintain Cobbs Creek Golf Course. The City is leasing the land to the Cobbs Creek Foundation, so that the Foundation (CCF) can spearhead a revitalization project that restores the course to its former glory while serving the needs of the surrounding community. The reopened Cobbs Creek course will be financially self-sustaining so it will not have to rely on donations or public funding in order to stay afloat. All revenue from the golf course and all operations at the campus will stay on site, meaning that it will be used to maintain the property as well as fund the education and community center.
From a purpose and goals perspective, we look at our goals pretty much as as these five: one is obviously to restore Philadelphia history and black golf history to its rightful place. Two is to revitalize a site that has suffered through decades of neglect. Third is to remove barriers to the sport of golf. Fourth is to provide community and educational support for residents, and lastly, we want to develop an environmentally and economically sustainable golf course. This partnership will breathe new life into the 106-year-old historic Cobbs Creek golf course and create a public, high-quality space that is accessible, sustainable and community focused.
Unfortunately, right now, Cobbs Creek is a stranded asset within Philadelphia, meaning it is not funded, it’s closed. It is also in a state of disrepair. The former clubhouse burnt down. We have a lot of overgrown and invasive vegetation. As many people have probably seen, there’s excessive dead grass. We have a severe flooding and erosion problem in the creek, lots of trash everywhere. And as I mentioned earlier, it’s really an abandoned asset.
After the revitalization. Cobbs Creek will be a spectacular public golf course for residents to enjoy. This will include a new clubhouse, a Community Education Center, a driving range, meeting space for residents, as well as a fully revitalized three miles of Cobbs Creek and related tributaries. While we recognize that some people have been using the property during the closure for activities other than golf, Cobbs Creek has always been a golf course that is accessible to all residents. And the City has partnered with the Cobbs Creek Foundation to help return Cobbs Creek to its original purpose and re-establish it as a valuable community resource for generations to come.
The next slide provides an overview of the Master Site Plan, which was submitted to the City in September of 2021 and approved by the Arts Commission. The Cobbs Creek Foundation has pledged a minimum investment of $65 million to restore and develop the Cobbs Creek Golf Course campus. I think it’s important to note $15 million of the investment is to revitalize the creek itself, clean up pollution, prevent further erosion and flooding, and reduce sediment deposits.
The partnership between the City of Philadelphia and the Cobbs Creek Foundation includes plans, as I mentioned, to restore the golf course to its original design, as well as build a new Education and Community Engagement Center, in addition to a driving range and a restaurant. The left side of the screen is the old course that’s the original 18-hole course that was built in 1916. On the right side of the screen was the old 18-hole Karakung Course, which will be a new nine-hole course. A reservoir will be built to irrigate the course itself on the top part of the screen, and the education and driving range centers right in the middle of the Master Site Plan.
So next, we want to talk a little bit about the environment. I think everyone would like to hear about the site clearing that has gone on at the property. The first thing we’d like to let you know is that we don’t take the removal of trees lightly. We have removed roughly 100 acres of trees from the property. Some of those acres were dense, some of them not so dense. But every acre of trees that we’ve removed is directly tied back to that Master Site Plan. A lot of it is for the restoration of the golf course itself, meaning the meaning trees that have grown into the existing or original routing of the golf course that we’re restoring back to its original shape. 45 acres of the trees were removed specifically for the Creek Restoration, which includes a 16,000 species of plants and trees replanting program that will go into that area of tree removal. And the rest of the tree removal was for infrastructure and buildings, mainly the reservoir, the driving range, and the starter hut for the new nine-hole course. The removal of trees ultimately was a was a must in order for us to restore this property to its original shape and to build some of the buildings that we’re putting onto the property. But we understand that it is not something that everyone is in favor of.
And along with the massive replanting program that will go along the creek itself, we are also committed to planting 1,500 additional trees around the site and within the community. Further details on that plan will be coming out soon. We’re working with our designers right now trying to figure out where those trees should go. But we’re very excited that we can put more quality trees back into this community, into this property, than we’re taking down to start.
From an environmental perspective of Cobbs Creek, it’s a bit of an issue. So, the creek itself floods often. It also is the recipient of sewage water from combined sewer overflows that are on the property right now that aren’t capable of holding the intensive storms that happen these days. The creek itself is filled with trash and debris in many areas. And there’s extensive eroding along the banks. So again, we are 100% committed to doing everything we can to fix the environment down there. And that’s exactly why we’re in partnership with land studies, several other engineering firms, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the US Army Corps of Engineers to form a $15 million (plus) Creek tributary restoration and floodplain creation.
When this is all said and done, this will have improved habitats, increased biodiversity, and established better convey flows and sediment supply to the channel. I think it’s important to note that this area of Cobbs Creek is the recipient of 10 square miles of stormwater that all flows towards Cobbs Creek. After this project is done, we’ll be able to handle that sort of stormwater. And then we’ll also include 37 New acres of new wetlands as well.
So, it’s really going to be fantastic, once it’s done. I realize it doesn’t look great right now. I can assure you that nothing we’ve done so far has harmed the existing creek itself so we left all the stumps in place that won’t be removed until after we start the construction on the creek itself. And, again, we’re working with the best and brightest in Pennsylvania, or even in the country, on this project including the Pennsylvania DEP and the US Army Corps of Engineers to make sure that we, we’ve we finished with a fully functional, highly resilient, and working Creek Cobbs creek down on the property.
So, with that, I’m now going to turn it over to Morgan Moore, who’s going to talk about our Community and Educational Center.
Hi, everyone, I’m so happy to be with you all tonight and happy to see a few familiar names on the zoom with us. As Jeff stated, my name is Morgan and I’d like to talk about the crux of this project, to me: the upcoming Community Engagement and Education Center. We really want this to be a project that’s with and for the community. We have five primary tenants at this time: academic achievement, building golf skills and values, career readiness, financial education, and then all those coalescing to improve community cohesion.
For right now until we open, which is anticipated at the end of next year, we’re doing interim programming that’s beginning in the fall. I’m happy that we have four partner schools in the area at this time, and these programs will be running at those schools during the school day. These were created with the principals and parents there along with other community members. When we ask them what they would like to see out of programming, the answers are building self-esteem and a positive racial identity, understanding emotions and conflict resolution, trauma informed healing through mindfulness and meditation, expanding dreams and envisioning what is possible and health, nutrition and wellbeing. And I’m going to let Maria talk a little bit about our free campus programming.
Hello, thank you so much to everybody who’s gathered for spending your evening with us. We want you here, we want your voice. I’m Maria Stroup, a lifelong educator and I’m a member of the education, social responsibility and community engagement team. We are 10 months young into this project. And I’m really proud of the deep-rooted partnerships and meetings we’ve had to really gather the community voice that will infuse all our actions and wonderfully so, we already have pre campus programming that has gone on this year. And we’ve done that in step and with the voice of fellow school administrators and, as Morgan said, parents. We are committed to this deep relationship and we have four partner schools already: Overbrook Educational Center, Robert E. Lamberton, Louis C. Cassidy, and West Philadelphia Achievement Charter School have all wanted to be a part of shaping and the delivery of the programs.
We have an amazing summer bridge program camp plan where we have 60 young rising first, second, and third graders who have been directly impacted by COVID, who the principals and educators are identifying themselves as needing extra bolstering. And we’re going to be running those programs from the end of July through August. We have set in motion at these four schools, social emotional and academic readiness programs that we’re going to run during the school day, on two to three touches a month at each of those schools. We have wonderful professional development opportunities for all four of these schools and their colleagues that are really boots on the ground. And they need the bolstering and support and commitment to just infusing them with real tools that will make them stronger and more effective in the critical work they’re doing every day.
We have wonderfully shaped a community ambassador program that we are going to launch next month, which will be 15 to 20 members of the community in various touchpoints whether they be parents, educators, community store owners, nonprofits in the area, we want the voices to come together and shape every one of our actions and really set up a program that seeks to bring our voices to the table.
With that said, we are a community-built Education Center. Our campus will not open until the end of 2023, all our programming is right now and that in the last 10 months has been happening directly on school campuses. We are so excited about this building opening and all the opportunities and all the children that will come through those doors.
With that said we’re not reinventing anything. We would like to garner the best practices that our community has already offered. And so we are partnering with unbelievable programs like Mighty Writers, where they will hang a shingle in our space on, for instance, Monday and Wednesday. And then for math programs and science programs, we hope to run a STEM program space where local schools can come on field trips, and art room where local schools can use the resources of this community center during the day, also yoga and trauma informed care, grief support, just working with all levels of social emotional wellness. With that said, CHOP has 100% come into this project, Cobbs Creek CHOP, and wants to run health and nutrition programs, and offer ways to deal with the adversity of food insecurity and all the layers of that.
And beyond that, golf, we’re proud of the sport. And we’re proud of the character building attributes that it will foster in the lives of these children. And we hope to have small golf clubs and golf teams at all the local schools, colleges and universities that will come together. And most importantly, we want to be a Center of Academic Readiness. We want to build on career and the next steps of education, we want to do financial planning and education. But all of that will be decided by the community that surrounds Cobbs Creek for what the needs are, because we are only building on the assets of this community, we are trying to be in step with the voices we’ve been listening to. And who knows who we will be because we really want to listen and respond to the needs of the community.
And so to that point, and thank you, Maria, for saying that since July, we’ve had over 100 meetings with community residents and stakeholders. Again, we want to make sure that this is a collaborative process and every step of the way, we have three desired goals for our community engagement, and that is to improve access, whether that be educational, social, emotional, or any other sort of barrier, we want to increase support. Again, I’m a former teacher. So, we feel the social-emotional does correspond with the academic and the life trajectory. And then of course, collaboration, which we’ve discussed. But we really do want to be a hub of all the best assets of the community and have the community inform our process at every step of the way. This is why these programs will be offered free of charge at the golf course. And really, we’re excited about all students having a safe and resource-rich state-of-the-art educational facility. And really, that’s going to be an addition to the community.
We also have a lot of broad community support. Thankfully, we have a few quotes on the screen. And I won’t do us a disservice of reading every single one of these quotes. But I do think that Mark Reason’s quote epitomizes many of the others. He is the President of the Overbrook Park Civic Association, and he states the following: “The Overbrook Park Civic Association supports the Cobbs Creek Foundation’s goals to restore the historic golf course and bring a much-needed Engagement Center to our community. The OPCA has been in communication with the Foundation over the past two years. And I found them to be willing to engage with community leaders, local schools, and teachers.”. Our community engagement does not stop when the doors open. This is a process that is going to be until really the foreseeable future, we want to make sure that we’re corresponding with community members.
Great, thank you, Morgan, and Maria, appreciate that. In terms of next steps for the project, just so everybody’s aware. The overall timeline is it’s our goal to basically open the Education Center and driving range sometime in 2023. And the golf course itself in 2024, I will tell you, it’s a very difficult time to begin construction due to supply chain issues, labor shortage, just pricing. Overall, it’s a very difficult process for us, but we’re doing the best we can to get this thing open as quickly as possible.
In terms of immediate next steps, over the next couple of weeks, the existing trees that have been taken down will be cleaned up and the ones that will be used for the Creek Restoration will be organized on site. We are in the process right now of selecting our contractors. We’re in a bidding process right now, we’ve sent out an RFP in February, we received bids earlier this month, and we’re working our way through all those pretty obviously complicated and complex bids that we’ve received.
That’s the overall timeline. We will, by the time we select contractors for the project, which will be hopefully in June, publish a much more detailed timeline itself. The purpose of this meeting was to sort of give everybody an update, obviously a large group and update all at once about the just the details and facts, the project, but we do plan on having much smaller townhall type meetings where we can interact with smaller groups. And make sure that everybody feels like they have a chance to meet us and talk with us about the project. And we can answer your questions, whether it’s virtual or in person. I think the key takeaways about the project is the alternative for the golf course itself. If the Foundation was not able to restore to what the course was for over 100 years, there really wasn’t a great alternative. But with that comes a lot of issues. And we are going to maintain this property, we’re going to make it fantastic for the neighborhood, we’re going to have this educational center. And we’re going to make sure that every dollar that’s excess revenue ensures the property itself is maintained 100%. For the community, that’s part of our mission.
I think the creek restoration itself is a highly misunderstood part of the project, it actually is an environmental, massive issue at this point. Our whole goal of that part of the project is to restore the creek to make sure it’s working the right way to make sure it has the right plants and trees around it to make sure it has sufficient wetlands to absorb high stormwater events to make sure that we also handle and fix the combined sewer overflows in the property right now that that spew of raw sewage into that creek.
As I mentioned earlier, we’ve partnered with the best and brightest in the country and in the region to put together a very, very comprehensive plan. It’s thousands of pages long. It’s been blessed by the DDP, the water department. We’re in final approval right now, with the DDP and the US Army Corps of Engineers, we expect that very shortly. And we’re hoping to begin work on that creek this summer.
Lastly, we’ve been doing our best absolute best to make sure that we do meet with the community, especially the schools and the teachers and the principals to make sure that our Educational Center makes a difference. And we’ve gotten great feedback so far. I don’t know if some of the folks on the call know this. But we’ve also done a lot of programming already in the community. I’m sure you’ve probably seen us, we were at Overbrook Educational Center two weeks ago, did a big program for the kids there. Last week, we did a big trash cleanup. So, we are doing our absolute best. We understand that there are concerns about the project, especially from a tree removal perspective. But that is simply something that was part of the master plan when the lease was initially conceived with the City in 2019. We submitted those plans; we’re just executing on exactly what we’ve put forward and spent millions of dollars on at this point to do this project. So, we’re committed to getting it done. And we think it’s going to be a game-changer for the community. And with that, I’m going to turn it over to Councilman Jones for final remarks before we take questions.
I’m not seeing him come up in the panelists for some reason, Councilman Jones, if you can hear us, you can turn your screen on and let us know.
Well, we can always come back to him. Perhaps you can give him a call while we start to take some questions. So, Lauren Kline, who is the head of HR, grants, and several other things at Cobbs Creek is our moderator and she’s going to go ahead and run through these questions.
Wait, now we have Councilman Jones. Yes, thank you so very much. Can you hear me, I’m trying to get my camera to work. Give me a second. All right. So, I may not be able to do the camera. But I guess what I wanted to convey is that if we had to do this all over again, I believe we would do it differently. I did not know about the trees and have a total commitment to conservation in West Philly. That is my bad and that is my fault. I think if we could have gotten people together earlier, even though the Foundation and our office attempted sincerely to inform as many people as possible with leaflets to meetings, but we maybe should have done a little bit more to those environmentalists, because we could have benefited from their input and insight to this process.
Having said that, we are where we are. Well, we cannot stop in the middle of the expressway, because it will not be reforested. The community will benefit from more trees. So, in my opinion, we should learn from our mistakes, communicate more, interact better, and be able to reforest, and then complete the construction of that golf course. And that’s my opinion.
I believe the benefits at this point can be achieved, that young people can learn not only our appreciation for golf, but appreciation for the environment. I believe that young people can not only learn how to play golf, but to how to manage golf courses then seek careers out. I believe in the community benefits, that the community adjacent to the golf course will benefit extremely not only environmentally, but on property values as well.
So, I hope that we can, at this juncture, learn from our mistakes, chart a path to complete the project, and take each other’s comments seriously as suggestions implemented into the future, as well as the current construction and design of this course. That’s my sincere hope. Could we have done it better? Yes. Should we continue to do it? Yes. So that’s what I have to say.
I’m thankful for everyone’s involvement and the concern that has shown by all sides, but at this point in time, what we need to do is figure out what we need to do next. That’s my comment. Thank you for allowing me to get it. In my world, I have to multitask. But I thought about this, I get different inputs from people I deeply respect. So, all of those things helped me to better understand. So, thank you very much.
Thank you, Councilman Jones, we appreciate your comments. And we also agree with your sentiment in terms of lessons learned along the way. I think we didn’t appreciate the need for stronger community engagement prior to the project starting. We’re certainly doing that, and in a very, very earnest way right now. And we’re committed to doing that going forward. If this project is not great for the community, it’s a failure for us. So, this is why we’re doing it, it’s for the community. We want to do it with the community. And the whole purpose is to take what we consider a stranded asset that’s a liability in the city right now and turn it into what it once was, along with an Educational and Community Engagement Center for the youth that are located around the course. So that’s our entire mission. There’s no ulterior agenda. There’s nothing that anybody at the Foundation gets out of this. This is a nonprofit; it will always be a nonprofit. And we’re committed to making sure this is a great project, we believe that it will be, and we believe also that we have a tremendous amount of support so far, and we’re hoping to gain more.
So, with that, I’m going to turn it over to Lauren Kline, to go ahead and start doing some questions. We have plenty of time left.
Hi, everybody. So, we’ve had a number of questions pre-submitted. We invited community members to submit questions prior to this evening, so we have a lot of those. And I’ve been feverishly organizing as questions have come in tonight. So, we’re going to try to get through as many as we can tonight. And we are committed to answering all the questions we’ve received, whether we are able to do so publicly or not tonight, but they will be publicly answered.
The first question just happens to be: “Will the grass be cut this summer, and will litter be picked up?”
Yes, so we actually started cutting the grass on our own dime prior to our lease, because the city was unable to afford to cut the grass. We started that last year. We are in the process of cutting the grass right now, our first mower actually broke last week and we are in the process of procuring a new one. But yes, we will absolutely maintain the property, not just the grass. We do our best to clean up trash, I’m sure not everybody’s aware. We have trash dumped there every day: mattresses, tires, you name it is dumped on the property which we continue to clean up. The City is also helping us do that, which is great. But yes, the answer to the question is we will maintain the property, including the grass.
Great, thank you. The next question is: “Are minority-owned businesses included in the bidding process?”
Yes. So, we’ve signed up for the Economic Opportunity Plan, obviously, which I’m sure probably a lot of people might know about. But basically, this is the plan that for projects in the City, establishes the goals of minority and women-owned business to bid. So, we have signed up for that. But more than that it’s our mission to fulfil this. This project is considering both the construction side and post-construction, when we open, we plan to hire as many local residents as possible, including minorities. So, we bid out the project to multiple minority-owned firms and all other firms, whether they’re minority owned or not, know that in order for them to participate in the project, they need to exceed the goals established in the Economic Opportunity Plan.
Thank you, the next question, which was somewhat answered already, is: “Will there be employment opportunities for community members?”
Yes, and I think I kind of just touched on that. But yes, we want to fill every job possible at the Center with local community members, that’s our goal. Again, if we don’t fill the jobs with local community members, we consider the project to be a failure. And we think that’s part of the whole thing here, we’re trying to breathe new life into the community, we’re trying to create jobs, and we’re trying to create opportunities for everyone that lives there. And there will be a lot of good jobs there. There’s going to be a lot of opportunities. And we’re excited about working with the community to make it a community center.
That is exciting! Next question is: “When will the felled trees be removed from the property?”
Actually, our goal was for them (the tree removal company) to be coming for them last week, but they’re delayed right now. So, the contractor responsible for that will be coming back. Hopefully, within the next two weeks. We apologize for the delay. Again, it’s difficult times from a construction and contractor perspective, in terms of availability, but they will be coming back out. And again, I think I mentioned it during the presentation, a lot of the trees will be used in the creek restoration itself, whether it’s for banks or for splash logs in the water. And so that’ll hopefully happen the next couple of weeks. And we’ll keep everybody updated on that as best we can since I know it’s a hot topic.
It is, thank you for that comprehensive update. Next question is: “Can you update us on the fundraising progress to date?”
Sure. We’ve raised over $50 million now, which is fantastic. We’ve raised a lot of money over the last year itself. We were less than half of that about a year ago. So, we’re very excited about that. There are some very large gifts, but there’s also a lot of smaller gifts as well. We really appreciate everybody’s support. I think everybody has been extremely generous, but we still have work to do on that side. This project is expensive. It’s massive. It’s challenging, it’s complex. It involves a lot of stakeholders, and a lot of people, a lot of consultants, engineers, you name it. So, it’s an extensive project, and we still have our work to do on the fundraising side. But we’re fully committed and feel good about where we’re at. We’re well ahead of where we thought we’d be at this point in time.
Excellent! Next question: “Will there be pricing for local residents to play?”
Yes, absolutely. I think this gets back to our mission. Again, it would be a failed mission if this was not accessible and price-appropriate for folks, especially those in the immediate surrounding neighborhoods, but really city-wide. We’re trying to figure out the right formula for that. At the end of the day, we don’t want to create a venue that loses money and has to be funded through donations each year, or by city funding. We want to create a sustainable golf course and we’re going to duplicate a model that’s been used at other very similar and mature golf courses throughout the country. There’s one in San Diego, Torrey Pines. There’s one in New York, Bethpage Black and one in the city of San Francisco called Harding Park. These are municipal golf courses that are accessible to locals and at affordable rates, but they also draw national players because of their appeal and they’re championship in caliber. And that’s really the intent of Cobbs Creek – to bridge the gap, make golf available and accessible and affordable for everyone that’s local, but also draw people to be a destination for when people come to Philadelphia; similar to if you go to New York, you want to go play Bethpage Black, if you want to go to San Francisco, you want to play Harding Park, we hope people say the same thing about Cobbs Creek when they come to Philadelphia.
“Is this a Philadelphia only project? How about neighbors in Delaware County?”
Sure, it’s not a Philadelphia only project. I mean, it’s obviously known as Philadelphia but actually part of the property technically isn’t in Philadelphia at all, it’s Upper Darby. We’ve met with the mayor of Upper Darby and several other folks in Upper Darby. So that’s an important part of the project as well as Montgomery County as well, which borders Lower Merion on one side. So, it’s a city course, we want to be known as the city’s course, but it’s certainly going to be regional.
Interesting, thank you. Next question is: “Will there be netting put up to avoid our homes being hit by golf carts?”
Yes, the routing of the balls themself are definitely going to be changed a bit to make sure that directionally there won’t be the issue. There already is some netting. I think that was put up a couple of years ago, but definitely, again, that would be a failure for us if we had golf balls that were hitting people’s houses. There’s obviously going to be netting put up for the driving range. But yes, that is a known thing that we cannot have golf balls hitting people’s houses.
And here’s one: “Will there be sidewalks on the busier roads?”
Yes, so our plan is to have a sidewalk that comes basically down from Rose Playground, down Lansdowne Ave to the center of the campus where you could access the clubhouse or the educational center and the driving range as well as a connecting sidewalk that goes from 69th Street station down Cardington Avenue itself. We’re working with another foundation who’s been generous enough to help fund that as well. So, we’re working on the details of that, but we think it’ll be great not just for people that want to get to the golf course, but also for folks that must walk from Overbrook, down to 69th street for public transportation. So, and there’s also the Heinz refuge Trail, which would like to connect its trail through or around the Cobbs Creek property, we’re also talking to them, they’re more than welcome to do that, but I think there’s some details to work out on funding and how that would work. But they’ve contacted us and showed us a map of how they could connect to that trail. I think that goes from near the airport to King of Prussia. It would be great.
“Do any of the Foundation staff live in the immediate neighborhood of the course?”
Not enough. Morgan does, who’s been on the screen tonight. But no, we don’t have a large staff of the foundation, we have seven people total and Morgan is the only one who lives near the golf course itself. Obviously, again, that’s part of our plan to make sure that we start, especially as the project gets bigger and there’s a significant number of jobs and buildings are open and operations are going on, so that we are staffed locally. So, right now there’s not enough.
“What ages for the golf course and educational center be available to?”
The Educational Center, long term, will be K through 12. We want to make sure we’re successful with what we do so we’re going to probably start a little smaller to start out. Certainly, from a pre-opening perspective, we’re going to focus more on K through 5, but we want to make sure everything that we do there is first class, it’s done right, it’s making a difference. So, we’re going to start a little smaller. I think as Morgan and Maria mentioned, we’re partnering with three schools to start out, or actually four, but three to start off from a pre campus perspective. Overbrook Educational Center, Lamberton, and Lewis C. Cassidy. So yes, it’ll be K through 12 eventually. And there’s space and time available when the kids are in school. So, there’s no reason to think that other people can’t use it too. Other groups, other nonprofits, other age groups, during the day.
“Can children that live in the neighborhood, but don’t attend neighborhood schools participate in the Education Center?” Absolutely.
These questions are great, but we’re jumping around from topic to topic, next is: “How will the golf course affect traffic?”
One goal of the golf course is that we’re going to build a traffic table on Lansdowne Avenue that will slow down the traffic. Right now, it’s a very, very, very fast-moving traffic. And it’s extremely dangerous, obviously, for pedestrians. So, we will have a traffic table and hopefully a stoplight there. In terms of creating traffic, we’re not aware of additional traffic that it would create. The operations of the golf course are sort of one in one out. So, it’s not like everybody rushes there when it opens for the day, there are tee times throughout the day. And we should have ample parking. But yeah, I don’t anticipate a lot of traffic. I do think there was a traffic study done and we could follow up with that with whoever asked that question.
Maria, maybe you would want to take to this next one. Someone’s asking: “Will there be parent resources or engagement opportunities for parents in the community?”
Yes, very much so. We are seeking to offer programs during the day for parents as well as trauma informed care, health and nutrition, parenting skills, opportunities for those who might be navigating, wanting to bolster their educational path as well or career path. We see this as an encompassing project where we find many touch points in the community and respond to the needs. And just to build on what Jeff said yes, we are investing in local area schools, but in no way shape or form are we limiting to just kids who go to local schools. And by all means it’s the residents who surround the community, who we are seeking to serve by the resources we’re seeking to give. So, with that said, we’re trying to create fewer barriers for all and access to as many ages as possible. We’re open six days a week at least. And we will respond through our community ambassador group to the needs we are hearing and design programs that meet those needs. So, nothing’s off the table. We want to have an open posture. We want to go where the voices are in listen deeply and respond. So please invite us to your meetings, please invite us individually or in larger group sessions. Morgan and I are committed to a deep posture of leaning in and listening.
I just saw a question pop up and I just wanted to make sure we answered it before we cut to the next one: It says: “West Philadelphia Academic Charter School is near the golf course, why was it not asked to be part of the project?” Maria, isn’t that the one that we just met with?
Yes, they are actually very much a part of the project, West Philadelphia Charter School right up against the golf course. And we had a great meeting with them, and we are definitely deepening our partnership with them.
Okay, great! Glad we could address that. Thank you. Here’s a question that asks: “Is it true that contractors who felled trees were allowed to remove trees that they found valuable and sell them for their own profit?”
No, that wasn’t part of the bid itself. The tree removal included the removal of the trees that were not useful for the property itself afterwards and, for the trees that would be used for the creek restoration to remain on probably. Those will be cut to a certain length to be used on the creek banks and in the creek itself. So, it was a combination of the two. What happens to some of the trees that they remove? We’re not sure, I’m sure there’s probably is some value to them that they included in their in their bid. It was an extremely expensive process for the Foundation. So as a nonprofit, I can assure you our goal was to reduce the construction cost overall as much as possible. That’s turning into a difficult task right now in this day and age, but we didn’t determine exactly what the value of wood was that would be removed. There will be wood that is removed that the tree contractor can do what they want with.
Thanks for explaining that. Next up: “Will nonprofits be allowed to create programs at the course?” This might be more of a Maria or Morgan question?
Yes, in fact, we are already in partnership with several nonprofits around the course, Multicultural Family Services, right at 69 Street. St. Barnabas Mission, right on Girard, a mile from the golf course. We are seeking to support all those that are around this and the vital missions that they are seeking to serve. So yes, any nonprofits that want to reach out to us we have had meetings and we are open to continuing to have meetings, there is no point where we will stop meeting with the community. And another question that we’ve heard is “will we continue programming in schools, even outside of our community initiatives out of the center when the center opens”, yes – we will continue to have programs running in schools and have an outreach beyond the walls of the Education Center. So, there are so many exciting things that we want to make happen and in time, as we grow our staff and our programs and listen deeply to voices, we will seek to deliver quality programs that are informed by the community.
Thank you. All right, next is: “Why is the course called Cobbs Creek Golf Course when it is in Overbook Park?”
I guess I think it’s named after the creek which is Cobbs Creek. I don’t know why Cobbs Creek is called Cobbs Creek. I believe there was an owner of land named Cobbs that the creek flowed through, but I’m not sure. And maybe the fact that it was named over 100 years ago.
“Did the foundation purchase the Gulf View apartments? And if so, what is going to be done with them?”
We did not purchase the Gulf View apartments. So, I’m not sure what will happen to those.
“Will you install sidewalks on Lansdowne Ave. and going up to 69th Street, as well as lighting for pedestrians?”
Yes, as discussed earlier. We definitely will. That’s part of the plan. We’re working out the details of that. But those specific roads will be covered.
“Will SEPTA buses be rerouted to access both the center and the course?”
We’re not sure about that yet. We have spoken to SEPTA but we have not talked about specific bus routes.
“Will this whole project be built on existing property, or will any new property be involved?”
I think this is a good question. Because, again, we are not doing anything other than restoring what was once there.
We’re actually taking the 18-hole Karakung Course and shrinking it down to nine holes. There will be a significant number of trees replanted on the property, especially along the creek and tributaries along the course.
But yes, this property has been a golf course for 106 years. It was open until October 2020. At its peak, we’re told 50,000 rounds were played a year. So, this was once a place where community residents really enjoyed being and that’s what we want to restore to. We by no means took a property that was used for something else and are turning it into a golf course, we’re literally restoring it back into one.
We’re putting a driving range in where the existing driving range was. Then obviously the educational center is new, which we hope everyone will appreciate. We’re restoring the old men’s locker room and maintenance facility. The actual original clubhouse burned down. So, this is a restoration project.
I think as Councilman Jones said, had we done it all over again in terms of our starting point, we would have done a better job of community outreach, I hope you all realize we are fully committed to that. Now and going forward, and we’ve been doing it for the last few months, as well, and in a very big way.
And, the trees came down on the golf course. We submitted our plans to the city and for our zoning permits to do that, I think in September or October, obviously, and they started in February. We did work with the city, and, on our Master Site Plan, there were no surprises from our side, in terms of what we were executing on. I think that the bigger thing that we learned was just in terms of assuming that folks would understand that you did have to clear the site before the work can start restoring it back to its former shape.
But I think at the end of day, a lot of that’s going to trump sort of what’s happened here. And I appreciate all the questions that’s why I’m addressing the tree part and I just wanted to make sure we addressed that, and understand that we’re just executing on the plan that we set forth in 2019, that we when we attain city council approval to do the project, which included clearing the site, because we had to restore the course to its original shape, we had to put an educational center, and we had to clear the creek out so we could rebuild that and make it make it great again. So, we’re just executing on a plan that we started out several years ago, we’ve raised millions of dollars of private money from folks that have nothing to gain out of the project, other than the joy of giving this back to the City, and providing an area for recreation and education for the residents.
We will do our best after this call to address these questions. One on one, like I said, we will put together a plan for smaller community engagement sessions, where we have a town hall style where folks can ask whatever they whatever question they want, whether it’s in person or video with their voice. We thought today, considering we hadn’t had a big meeting in a while with a broader community, that it was best to do over chat. So, I apologize to those who have expressed comments about their concern of why we did this over chat. We were trying to keep this to more of an informational session so people can learn about the project. And perhaps because of what you’ve learned, you might have some really great questions or difficult questions for us going forward. And we’re more than welcome to answer those.
We’ve had a number of people reach out to us, both supportive and some people not supportive of the project that we’ve taken individual meetings on, and we’ll continue to do that. And I think as Councilman Jones said earlier, we are committed to getting this done, we are committed to making this great for the community. And with that, I’m going to adjourn.
I appreciate everyone for getting on. I know it’s been an hour; it looks like most of everyone stayed on. So that’s really great. We appreciate it. And sorry if we didn’t get to everyone’s question, but we will afterwards. And we are going to announce smaller community town hall events for smaller groups. So, it can be more interactive and more up front and we’ll do that shortly.
In the meantime, please look at our website for updates. We’ll be publishing the webinar recording to this on that as well. And we are committed to publishing the q&a as well on the website for all questions that are asked, we might have to group some together, but we will make sure all the relevant questions, whether they’re good or bad, supportive or non-supportive will be answered on the on the site.
So thanks, everyone.