Greening Lea

An outgrowth of Lea’s participation in the Community Design Collaborative’s Transforming Urban Schoolyard Design workshop, WPCNS’s Greening Lea project aims to transform the Lea schoolyards into vibrant, active, fun, ecological, educational, green schoolyards, and community spaces. Lea parents, students, teachers, and staff together with community groups, design professionals, and public agencies have created a master vision and plan for revitalizing Lea’s schoolyards.

Greening Lea plans for the 41,000 square foot asphalt lot to become a connecting point not only the school but also for the wider neighborhood. Working with Salt Design Studio through funds from a PECO Green Region grant, Greening Lea’s key elements include establishing the school yard as the new primary entrance with design elements to reinforce the identity of the school, the creation of a series of outdoor “rooms” and play areas, including the ever-popular basketball court, developing edges to address stormwater, and creating a separated area for trash removal, recycling and compost.

Rendering Full Size.jpgWhat’s Next

Phase I construction of the Greening Lea project is planned for the summer of 2015. This work is supported largely by a $242,000 Philadelphia Water Department Stormwater Management Incentives Program (SMIP) grant, a $10,000 PECO Green Region grant which was matched dollar for dollar by the community, grants from SCI-West and the Knight Foundation, gifts from Garden Court Community Association, Quirk Books, Spruce Hill Community Association, and University City District in addition to contributions from over 100 individuals and businesses. 

While a substantial portion of the 2015 design and construction work is covered by the funds listed above, the Greening Lea committee is actively grant-writing and fundraising for the remainder to ensure construction includes all of the planned elements and improvements. If you would like to make a specific donation to the Greening Lea project please click here.

Before Playground 2011.jpg

Our History

In 2011, a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer described Lea’s main play yard as “barren.” Although Lea’s main play yard was and is a popular spot for basketball and young bicycle riders, there were few opportunities for other active play and shade.

In November 2012, Greening Lea piloted its first project. Through a grant from SCI-West and with assistance from the School District of Philadelphia, a beautiful new planting bed was installed in the Lea playground along Spruce Street. Sixty volunteers came out over three days to dig, till, move soil, and plant to create the 1,400-square-foot bed with trees, shrubs, and bulbs.

The pilot planting bed served as an important “first step” to softening play yard’s asphalt landscape. It also signified a new beginning and growth at Lea.

In January of 2013, Greening Lea presented the Master Plan to the community. The Greening Lea Master Plan PowerPoint Presentation is available for download hereAn abridged version of the Greening Lea Master Plan is available for download here.

In 2014, another “early” Greening Lea opportunity presented itself. The School District of Philadelphia planned to move a play structure, donated by the Hamels Foundation and Spruce Hill Community Association, to Lea from the recently closed Wilson Elementary. Many former Wilson students now attend Lea and the project would reunite the two.

Lea playground large.jpgDrawing on an early disbursal from the Philadelphia Water Department SMIP grant, PECO Green Region grant, and funds from the community, Greening Lea partnered with the district to fund the installation of a new, water porous rubber play surface under both the old and new play structures. The brightly designed surface created a single, cohesive place space and ensured the two play structures remain on “equal footing.” The project also reduced the play yard’s impervious surface by 4,400 square feet and will allow Greening Lea’s Phase I construction more flexibility with the remaining stormwater management elements.

The new bouncy rubber surface also lends itself to tumbling. Like the ripples made by raindrops, the colorful, play surface is a series of concentric circles – a vibrant reminder that every sustainable gesture we make in the city ripples through our community improving the environment.

Get Involved

In addition to fundraising, there are many other ways for people to get involved to make this project a reality.  If you are interested in getting involved in any way, please email

Thank You

The West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood Schools thanks Lea students, teachers, staff, and neighbors for their continued support as well as the following organizations that have generously donated their time and/or funds for this project: Aladdin Pizza, Allied Barton, Community Design Collaborative, Enterprise Center CDC, Garden Court Community Association, Gold Standard Cafe, Infill Soak it Up, Iron Stone, Knight Foundation, LISC, Meliora Design, Natural Lands Trust, PECO, Philadelphia City Planning Commission, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, Philadelphia Water Department, Quirk Books, School District of Philadelphia, SCI-West, SMP Architects, Spruce Hill Community Association, Tree Philly, UC Green, University City District, University of Pennsylvania, Viridian Landscape Studio, Walnut Hill Community Association, and West Philly Tool Library.

– Greening Lea Committee Chairs, Julie Scott and Jen Martel.