Last year the Community Design Collaborative launched the Soak It Up contest to challenge design and sustainability professionals to create new plans to renovate or overhaul an industrial, commercial, or retail site. The point was innovation, and the use of sustainable technology.

So designers reimagined an industrial site at 8th & Dauphin and a shopping center at 28th & Grays Ferry, and others looked at greening the grid in Queen Village. These projects are often the planning impetus that leads to real action. Like at the Lea School at 47th & Locust in West Philly. What started in the spring of 2012 as a design charrette, a chance to collect ideas and brainstorm big about how to green the schoolyard there, turned into a larger community process and the school getting grant money the following year. This fall the school cut the ribbon on a new playground.

Future of Lea School

Now the Collaborative is turning to the vacant school buildings of Philadelphia, with a design charrette for reactivating those former schools. The charrette will explore how these neighborhood icons can be reimagined.

Present of MH Stanton

Ideas will be collected, tossed around and developed for two schools, Old Frances Willard School in Kensington and M. Hall Stanton School (not to be confused with EM Stanton in Graduate Hospital), which is a block from Broad & Lehigh in North Philly. The charrette will take place on Friday November 14th at the Center for Architecture on the 1200 block of Arch Street. You can register here for the all day charrette, or here for the panel discussion to follow in the evening.

The Collaborative is always a springboard for quality thinking, and perhaps one of these schools could become an innovative community center in the city or something else nobody has thought of before. If you want to be part of the process for bringing these and other schools back to life, spending a day at Friday's charrette might be your opportunity.