The new Pop-Up Pool lounge
Group Melvin Design and Sikora Wells Appel
The new Pop-Up Pool lounge

This past summer the inaugural test run of the Pop-Up Pools Project in Philadelphia took place. Located at the Francisville Recreation Center, the project aimed to get people interested and interacting with public pool spaces.

In May of 2015, the Pop-Up Pools Project, created by Camden, N.J.-based urban planning firm Group Melvin Design, won a grant from the Knight Foundation that gave the non-profit $297,000. It was one of seven winners from Philadelphia.

The Francisville location was chosen as the host site for what Ben Bryant, the director of planning and design for GMD, called the pilot pool.

A soft opening was held on June 22 with a more formal launch on July 1. Because of the late opening the pool only got a little less than two months open. The pool was closed in mid-August.

The project added a number of new amenities to the pool decking and a space just outside the pool fence. Previously, it was all just open concrete.

“We designed this built-in component that we called the lounge deck, which mimicked a lot of the amenities and seating that you would see at private pools and pool clubs,” said Bryant
The lounge deck that GMD built is about 60 feet long and 12 feet deep. Despite its look, the deck is actually modular and can be taken apart and moved around.

The Francisville pool deck before the Pop-Up Pool Project.
Group Melvin Design and Sikora Wells Appel
The Francisville pool deck before the Pop-Up Pool Project.

The various sections, which include lounge seats, benches and planters with palm trees, can be broken and down and moved to storage fairly easily. Bryant said that the goal was that once the deck is taken apart it wouldn’t take more than a normal box moving truck to haul it.

“This is just one pool site,” said Bryant. “We’re trying to make it transferrable to other pools that have varying layouts and sizes.”

Originally, Bryant said that they were considering put in lounge chairs and umbrellas. However, the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department wouldn’t allow anything that could be moved in the pool area.

Other restrictions came in the programming aspect of the project. Original ideas included bringing food trucks and having movie nights.

Instead, the Project had to get creative. In the evenings Aqua Zumba classes and Poolside Yoga classes were offered.

Bryant didn’t have exact numbers, and the Philadelphia Parks and Rec did not respond by press time, but Bryant said that they sent out a survey that received over 270 responses online and in person.

“About 70% of the people we asked said that it was their first visit,” said Bryant.

Flyers were put in local businesses and local community groups were encouraged to reach out. An aggressive social media campaign was launched as well.

Bryant said that they saw the most success interaction came from Instagram where they could show people a visual look at how the pool had been improved.

Currently, the Pop-Up Pool Project is in the early planning stages for summer 2016. Nothing is solid yet but Bryant said that the hope is try and expand the project to other pools in the city.