Renewal stirs hope for neighborhood

Muhammad Park getting facelift

Two teenage junior block captains in the Mill Creek section of West Philadelphia have hope for their community, now that a generations-old park is under renovation.

Muhammad Park, on Lancaster Avenue between 47th and 48th streets, has been been a magnet for unsavory activity, said Anwar Braxton, 16, and his pal Joseph McLeod, 16, who volunteer on their block nearby.

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U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan speaks at ceremony yesterday.

The pair yesterday helped break ground for the project, rubbing elbows with U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan and City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell.

The renovation, which includes more lighting, fewer trees and the replacement of concrete paths, is being spearheaded by the federally funded Philadelphia Weed and Seed, a nonprofit, community-based law-enforcement initiative.

Its goal is to reduce violence in high-crime areas, said its director Donna L. Griffin.

Other Philadelphia Weed and Seed sites are in the Kensington and Fishtown sections.

A renewed park is "going to be good for the community because it will give kids something else to do," McLeod said.

Braxton said he's seen prostitutes on the edge of the park and McLeod said he has found drug paraphernalia in the park, which is located across the street from Our Mother of Sorrows Cathedral.

"If you see more people here, you won't see drug activity here because the park won't be a place to hide," McLeod said.

Phase One of the project, expected to cost $250,000 to $500,000, will be completed by the end of June, Griffin said.

Park visitors will soon see trash receptacles and new play structures, she said.

The entire renovation should be completed in about 18 months and will eventually include a pavilion for performances and spiffy new park benches, Griffin said.

Organizers also hope the project will move young citizens to respect nature and green space, officials said.

Four nearby schools are being encouraged to start gardens in Muhammad Park, Griffin said. *