Named Cedar Street in William Penn’s plan of Philadelphia, South Street was the traditional southern boundary of Philadelphia’s city limits. In the late 1960s, the suddenly cheap property attracted artists and counterculture-types, and by the 1980s, South Street became one of the city’s main tourist attractions, and it’s “neighborhood” community aspect floundered.
This week’s opening of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) 2014 Pop Up Garden, located on a lot owned by Philadelphia music legend Kenny Gamble, brought hundreds of residents back to the lauded block for fun and good times. Tuesday’s grand opening party to launch the “pop-up” urban oasis is the fourth in a series of summer-long neighborhood transformations. Guests will enjoy an allée of zelkova trees transplanted from the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show, palm trees, hammocks, glittering lights, live acoustic performances, and special programs and celebrations.
“I think this really gets to the mission of PHS, that we build community with horticulture and this is what we are doing right now,” said PHS President Drew Becher, as he spoke above the din. “We are bringing together this whole neighborhood, and beyond this neighborhood, right here. First of all, the diversity here is pretty great, and I am pretty proud of that, to be honest. It is the nexus of what PHS is and I am excited that people are enjoying it.”
The urban agriculture aspect is one that resonates with Gamble, who via his Universal Companies is on a “mission is to improve communities and change lives, by creating cultural and entrepreneurial opportunities that break the cycle of generational poverty within historically disenfranchised communities.” The Universal Company education division has incorporated the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative (UNI) at two of it’s schools — Universal Audenried Charter High School and Universal Bluford Charter School — to “engage, educate and empower” students to promote healthy lifestyles and build a just and sustainable food system.
“We have an urban agriculture group where we’re trying to teach children how to grow food so they can feed themselves,” explained Gamble. “It is something I never learned, and I am just learning now how to grow you grow tomatoes, greens, string beans and all these things. I mean, the kids are really amazed because they are doing it with their own hands. And, we teach them that everything comes from out of the earth, including us as humans. It is a great lesson for the young people.”
As the legendary songwriter/producer and co-creator of the “Philly Sound” stood with his wife Faatimah Gamble in the midst of the newly formed tropical flavor, some guests shyly approached him to say hello or simply share community updates.
“I think it is good for the neighborhood, good for the community because what we’ve been trying to do is encourage, especially all the young kids in school,” he continued. “It is always good to know how to feed yourself, just in case. And, for us African Americans, that is our culture. We come from being farmers and growing all kinds of different crops.”
Proceeds from the Pop Up Garden support the PHS City Harvest program, which creates green jobs and brings together a network of community gardeners who raise fresh, healthy food for more than 1,200 families in need each week.
The 2014 PHS Pop Up Garden, located 1438 South St., next door to the Jamaican Jerk Hut is open seven days a week, through October 2014. Pop Up Garden Hours: Monday - Friday 11 a.m.; Saturday & Sunday: Noon. Food and Drink: Monday - Thursday 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. Friday 5 p.m. - Midnight; Saturday 2 p.m. - Midnight; Sunday Noon - 10 p.m. For more information, visit PHSonline.org.
Contact Tribune Staff Writer Bobbi Booker at (215) 893-5749 or firstname.lastname@example.org.