Through simple, low cost, and high design interventions, the tenants transformed a historically prominent coal shoot that was functioning as a present-day informal parking lot into an outdoor garden oasis and horticultural resource hub for the community. The design incorporates a commercial outdoor restaurant and bar, high quality public garden displays, food demonstration gardens, and sustainable greening elements. This 0.3 acre landscape is packed with a variety of gathering spaces and opportunities for socialization, relaxation, and environmental education that offer visitors something new and inspiring with each return.

The space is located in neighborhood of Philadelphia known for its small town charm in a large city. The space was once a community gathering place where neighbors would receive the coal needed to heat their houses. The design goals were to return the space back into a community amenity through design and activation, and utilizes several elements to educate visitors on sustainable practices and various programs that encourage greening throughout the city.

Scope and size

After signing the property lease in 2018, the tenants began the re-zoning process, which involved extensive and frequent engagement with residents in the surrounding neighborhood, the City of Philadelphia, the business improvement district, and community stakeholders to win approval. The tenants bid the project and began securing the necessary permits, which is when the COVID-19 pandemic stopped momentum on the construction phase. Once construction activities were allowed to resume, the tenants pivoted to adapt to the City of Philadelphia’s new online permitting portal, and secured the variances needed to open in September 2020.

Context Investigation

Tenants were drawn to this location for its unique history as a coal shoot. While in the present day, the space functioned as an underutilized and informal parking lot, the tenants sought to transform it to be a community hub. The site was originally designed to maintain the “front” section as a beer garden space with casual seating, and the community garden was to be housed in the rear area which would host private events or accommodate overflow. However, when the garden opened in September of 2020 under pandemic dining restrictions, the tenants quickly realized the need for generously spaced seating to accommodate social distancing and pivoted to spread tables and flex seating across the full expanse of space.

This shift also led to more plantings in the rear garden, and offered more space to share horticultural stories, and host programming and events. Now, the back of the Pop Up Garden is a magical hidden gem in the neighborhood that draws visitors to experience this re-envisioned community amenity.

Design Program/Design Intent

The design of the space was inspired by the multi-functional industrial retrofits observed in the Netherlands. The tenants were seeking to unify their community focused programming and activation to both inspire and educate the public on the low-cost, high impact greening efforts that the tenant’s organization brings to life through collaboration with residents and City agencies. The space uses a planting palette reflective of the North American biome to offer ecosystem services for wildlife and pollinators, and year-round visual interest.

The community garden section reflects two of the organization’s most prolific greening techniques implemented throughout the city: vacant land remediation and food producing, community led gardening. The split rail fence that surrounds the raised beds is a common design element that is incorporated into the low-cost “cleaning and greening” program that transforms a third of the vacant properties within the Philadelphia into vital community spaces. The site’s raised bed community garden allows visitors to experience the seasonally changing food crops that are harvested and donated to a local community center a quarter mile from the site.

Overall, the designers aimed to connect with guests coming to the garden to socialize, relax, and enjoy the company of friends and loved ones while introducing them to the work that the organization does which visitors may have seen, but may not have recognized as being affiliated with the organization.

Social Equity

The space provides jobs for a variety of industries including hospitality, horticulture, and urban agriculture in a safe outdoor environment while successfully fostering social equity and increasing economic opportunity. Through growing organic vegetables 9 months out of the year, the garden contributes to increasing access to fresh produce for communities in need. When the first batch of vegetables was delivered to a local community center, the center’s coordinator commented that they hardly ever get fresh vegetable donations, highlighting the impact and value of this community garden space.

Economic Viability

This garden not only provides vital job opportunities through its function as a full scale restaurant and bar, but also acts as a fundraiser for the organization, a nonprofit. A portion of every sale made at the site provides unrestricted funds to the nonprofit, which are then put back into its impactful programs and work within communities to increase equity through horticulture.


The tenants have worked with both private owners and developers to outline mutually beneficial relationships that reflect an understanding that transforming these spaces may not present owners much economic gain, however, owners still receive numerous benefits through allowing the organization to activate gardens in their space. All of the organization’s public gardens and landscapes foster the idea of place-making through community focused improvements with the goal of activating underutilized spaces that result in positive contributions to neighborhoods and communities.

Environmental Stewardship/Environmental Concerns and Impact

The space has incorporated a number of environmental stewardship features that tie in to the organization’s focus on creating healthy neighborhoods through the horticultural lens. Because the site borders a flood zone, the designers incorporated design elements intended to mitigate stormwater runoff. This included adding rain barrels at multiple locations throughout the garden as well as the addition of ample plants in spaces where there previously were impermeable surfaces. Each year, the space takes flooding issues into consideration when developing the garden’s design updates, and continues to build on these elements to reduce stormwater runoff and flooding effects in the area.

Additionally, the garden is populated with various pollinator-friendly plant species, which offer crucial pollinator habitat in a city environment. On the street just outside the space, the designers have planted several street trees to increase the area’s tree canopy which provides carbon sequestration, air purification, and reduces heat island effects. Surrounding the community garden is a post rail and fence, which brings awareness to the vacant land remediation program and its impact on creating community green space in areas that often lack them.

Collaboration With the Client and Other Designers

The tenant is well known for its key partnerships with other organizations and its innovative repurposing of design elements. Through the reuse of materials, The Pop Up Garden at Manayunk utilized several collaborators. The Lemonary, a popular exhibit from a well-known local floral show, provided all of the raised beds in the community garden. Building materials and cargo containers from a previous garen site were also upcycled into the garden’s design. Additionally, mushroom wood was donated from a local business and was used to build the perimeter plant beds. Throughout the Pop Up Garden, guests will also find repurposed shade elements which came from a partner project.

Role of the entrant in the project: Associate Director of Communications

Located at 106 Jamestown Ave, off of Main Street in the Manayunk neighborhood in Philadelphia.

Design year: 2018

Year Built: 2020


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