The renovation of the historic Cobbs Creek golf course in West Philadelphia hit a hurdle on Wednesday.
The city’s arts commission has given final approval to plans for a driving range and education center – after questioning or pushing back on plans at other times this year.
“I am confident that the issues raised by the commission have been resolved,” said arts commissioner Carmen Febo San Miguel. “I’m happy with some of the adjustments that have been made and how the project really pays attention to environmental issues.”
The city-owned Cobbs Creek Golf Course was a renowned public golf course that played host to players of color decades before other courses and the PGA. But in recent years it has fallen into disuse and closed.
Earlier this year, the city announced a lease agreement with a foundation to complete a $65 million renovation of the golf course, complete with a new 9-hole course, short course, 18-hole championship course , a restaurant and dozens of acres of wetlands. . The foundation plans to restore the course to its original 1916 design and operate it once renovations are complete. The renovated golf course is expected to include extensive community programming and discounted rates for Philadelphia residents.
The project sparked outrage when hundreds of trees were clearcut from the property. Neighbors and users of the overgrown and closed golf course worried about what the loss of trees could mean for flooding, biodiversity and heat – in a city already struggling with patchy weather coverage. canopy.
Since then, the Art Commission, which reviews all building projects on city land, has proven to be a challenge for the renovation project.
When the designs for the driving range and education center last appeared before the Arts Commission in September, commission members chastised representatives of the Cobbs Creek Foundation – the nonprofit leasing the land Golf – for failing to adequately respond to issues they had raised in previous meetings. The commission’s recent concerns have centered on environmental issues, including tree planting and whether the project would exacerbate the urban heat island effect.
“We haven’t seen you tackle anything that we haven’t seen before,” Art Commission member Raed Nasser said at the September meeting. “For me, it’s wasting my time.”
The plans had been presented to the Art Commission twice before. In April, the commission voted unanimously to deny design approval for the building. In July, the commission gave design approval to the driving range, but asked for more native plants, solar panels and bird-safe glass. The Commission gave conceptual approval to the Foundation Golf Course Master Plan in September 2021.
This week, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell presented the Foundation’s presentation to the Arts Commission.
“I am here to bring the unequivocal endorsement of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation to the Cobbs Creek Golf Course Restoration Project, and the project team that the Cobbs Creek Foundation has assembled to lead this important restoration of one of our nation’s most famous public golf courses,” Ott said Lovell.
A Foundation contractor with Biohabitats said the project will result in the loss of about 2 acres of green space and the conversion of about 12 acres of trees to non-forested green space, but dozens of trees will be planted. around buildings and parking areas. The project team has also pledged to donate $250,000 to TreePhilly to plant hundreds of trees in neighborhoods, 200 of which will be considered compensation for the loss of trees on the golf course.
Foundation representatives also said they incorporated bird-safe glass, solar panels, electric car charging stations and native plant landscaping into the designs.
“The input you’ve all made to date has really made the project better, especially from an environmental perspective,” said Jeff Shanahan, president of the Cobbs Creek Foundation.
Several Commissioners commended the Foundation for the changes. Several local residents and stakeholders in the school community have also come out in favor of the project, while other members of the public have questioned its community involvement and where the trees in the neighborhood will be planted.
Two commissioners abstained in the vote, but the others approved the plans unanimously.
The Foundation will now apply for building permits from the city, according to a spokesperson. The driving range and education center will be built after the creek restoration and wetland creation project.
This article was first published on WHYY.org.