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Community Engagement

Community Development Workshop : service-learning course projects

Since 2019 students in the Community Development Workshop have been developing resources for community partners to engage and build capacity to guide development in the neighborhood as gentrification pressures mount.  Below are brief descriptions of the course projects with links project pages on the course website where student work is displayed.

2022 Eastern North Stories

In spring 2022, the Community Development Workshop, in partnership with Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM), developed a walking tour meant to highlight both iconic and historical locations in the neighborhood of Eastern North Philadelphia and engagement activities for a community event to kick-off the walking tour.

The project was titled Eastern North Stories and a walking tour was developed in the neighborhood based on archival research, interviews, and the 2021 and 2020 cohorts’ previous work. The tour begins at Germantown Avenue and Berks Street near the former site of the Anshei Sholom Synagogue and ends at what now stands in its place: Cousin’s Supermarket. The tour route follows Germantown Avenue, N 8th St, and Diamond St, highlighting properties and buildings of historical significance and present-day importance. The team developed Story Cards for each site for participants to read aloud the site’s history and significance as well as to engage participants in discussion. The community engagement event to kick-off the walking tour was held on April 9, 2022 and included activities that focused on gauging residents’ interests and preferences for future developments in the neighborhood as well as sharing their memories and experiences of Eastern North Philadelphia.

To learn more about the sites highlighted on the Eastern North Stories walk tour visit the page Eastern North Stories.

Use this link below to view the video of the community event and tour Video – Eastern North Stories

2021 Explore Eastern North

In spring 2021, the Community Development Workshop continued in partnership with Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha’s (APM) and expanded scope of partnerships to include LISC Philadelphia and Cieba. Building off of previous cohorts, 2021 students worked across seven teams in developing an intersecting set of three walking tours and titled the project Explore Eastern North Walking Tours. Two additional historic walking tours were created for Lehigh Avenue and North 5th Street. Students rebranded the 2020 project, Discover Germantown Avenue Walking Tour and renamed it Explore Germantown Avenue for continuity with the project’s overall design and partners’ initiatives.

As community member-led tours and in-person events were postponed, the spring 2021 cohort designed tours to be self-guided and created a self-guided engagement activity for participants.

Visit the project overview page Explore Eastern North Walking Tours and follow the links to each historic walking tour along North 5th Street, Lehigh Avenue, and Germantown Avenue.

Use this link to view a video of this project Video – Eastern North Philadelphia Walking Tours

2020 Discover Germantown Avenue

Discover Germantown Avenue (now Explore Germantown Avenue), connects neighbors to iconic historic places in the Eastern North neighborhood. Starting at Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha’s (APM) 6th and Diamond office, the physical walking tour focuses on business and properties directly along Germantown Avenue. This website features profiles for each of the sites on the walking tour, with profiles for additional historical properties located throughout the neighborhood. The information collected here only scratches at the surface of the rich stories found in this neighborhood. It is our hope that this project helps explorers recall memories about this community, while also facilitating the creation of new memories.

The materials developed for the Discover Germantown Avenue walking tour were updated in 2021 in renamed Explore Germantown Avenue

Use the following link to view a video about this tour Video – Germantown Avenue Walking Tour

2019 Remembering and Envisioning Germantown Avenue

Dr. Mandarano partnered with Asociacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha for the Community Development Workshop capstone course in the Spring of 2019 to create a community engagement program, Germantown Avenue: Remembering and Envisioning.  The purpose of the project was to build local identity and capacity by engaging residents in understanding the history of the neighborhood’s once vibrant commercial corridor.  Students conducted archival research and interviews to inform the development of a community event.  The event included a series of posters of Iconic Places and storytelling stations to capture information on memories, where residents shop now, and the businesses and services they would like to see on Germantown Avenue.  One of the students created a documentary video of the class project and event.


Brownfield Area-wide Planning

Dr. Mandarano led the community engagement phases for the EPA funded Brownfield Area-wide Plan as an investigator on the grant award to Rowan University from 2016-2019.  The engagement tasks included public meetings, focus groups, photovoice, and a community design workshop.  The research team proposed using focus groups and photovoice as a core engagement method to learn from residents how they experience the built environment.  The former industrial district in the New Kensington CDC service area had experienced decades of disinvestment, which resulted in large swaths of abandoned buildings, vacant land, and pockets of illegal dumping, drug dealing, squatting, and the like.  The photos the participants labeled dislike told this story and the like photos revealed a compelling story of a neighborhood pride, sense of place, and community.

Students in the graduate Planning Studio in 2016 participated in this research project by facilitating the focus groups, coordinating the photovoice activities and conducting follow-up interviews with the participants.  She also trained students in the Spring 2018 Placemaking course on how to facilitate group discussions to arrive at conceptual designs for the Community Design Workshop held in 2018.

Green Neighborhood Took Kits

In August 2014, Dr. Mandarano received a $25,000 from the Wells Fargo Foundation to develop “Green Neighborhood Tool Kits” and train community-based organizations serving Philadelphia low-income neighborhoods to educate and empower residents to take actions that improve sustainability. She is partnering with the Philadelphia Association of Community Development CorpDSC_0230orations and the New Kensington Community Development Corporation for the project. Students in the Community Development Workshop developed Tool Kits modeled after NKCDC’s Sustainable 19125 & 19134 initiative for two other community development corporations: Asociacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha and People’s Emergency Center. The Philadelphia Water Department provided rain barrels; PECO CFL bulbs; and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society provided street trees to support the effort. Students in the Community Development Workshop also hosted two community events.  Pictured here is the green fence created from painted and reclaimed shipping pallets to activate the perimeter of a vacant lot.  A $35,000 gift from the Wells Fargo Foundation in December 2014, enabled Dr. Mandarano to extend the project by hiring two students as interns to work with the community partners to implement priorities identified in the Tool Kits and to establish two butterfly gardens as environmental education assets for two local schools.

EPA Urban Waters Small Grant

During March and April 2015, she facilitated three community design charrettes for an EPA Urban Waters Small Grant supporting Dr. Meenar’s efforts to develop conceptuHostos_Charretteal plans for green stormwater and recreational enhancements to a vacant lot and two schoolyards in Philadelphia. The input collected from the community design charrettes was used to develop conceptual plans that partner organizations can then use to secure funding for implementation.

Photo credit: Sanjana Ahmed.

Upstream Suburban Philadelphia Cluster Implementation Plan


The summer of 2013, Dr. Mandarano was busy hosting a series of workshops for the steering committee and community stakeholders in five watershed areas to identify places of ecological significance and to build consensus on the list of priority sites for each watershed.  The results informed the Upstream Suburban Philadelphia Cluster Implementation Plan prepared for the William Penn Foundation.

Fort Washington Area Flooding and Transportation Study

FortWashingtonCharrette2006After completing a National Charrette Institute training program, Dr. Mandarano facilitated her first 2-day charrette workshop in 2006 for the Fort Washington Area Flooding and Transportation Study.  The workshop was held as a project kick-off event where participants (business owners and employees of the Fort Washington Office Park – the geographic focus of the project) identified guiding principles, provided input on potential enhancements through a visual preference survey and prioritized enhancements.

Students in the graduate Planning Studio documented the outcomes of the charrette workshop and prepared a studio report, Out of the Water – A Revitalization Plan for the Fort Washington Office Park, that informed the project team’s efforts.