Asian Arts Initiative: Philadelphia, PA

In 1960, the Vine Street Expressway was built, dividing Philadelphia’s Chinatown district into Chinatown North and Callowhill. Economic disparity has emerged in the two areas—on one end, a burgeoning arts district has brought in luxury housing and retail development projects, but on the other end, such developments bring the threat of displacement for others. It’s an opportune moment to engage local residents and the broader public in the transformation and the future of the neighborhood.

The Pearl Street Project aims to transform four blocks of a currently underutilized and precarious area into a multi-use outdoor and indoor space for the community to gather. Positioned in the “backyard” of a diverse array of cultural organizations (the Asian Arts Initiative, art galleries, a Chinatown community center and mixed income housing), a revitalized Pearl Street would instill even more vitality into an area already pulsing with diversity and life.

Together with other partners, the Asian Arts initiative proposes to transform four blocks of Pearl Street into a park and outdoor gallery —using movable bollard posts to close the alley to through traffic, replacing asphalt with a pervious pavement to assist with water recycling, greening the area with planter boxes and vertical elements, and commissioning both permanent and rotating visual art installations along with seasonal live programming to be presented in the newly created gathering space.

A wonderful addition the positive momentum already happening in Philadelphia’s Chinatown and Callowhill neighborhoods, the Pearl Street Project will anchor the emerging arts district as a creative place where residents and visitors alike are inspired to explore and linger in the community.