The 200 block of Turk Street will soon be converted into a unique communal space where residents and businesses come together in Tenderloin, a neighborhood that has long campaigned for improved access to open spaces and safe streets.

The project, known as Safe Passage Park (SPark), will use improvements to the physical street scene to make the block’s 1,800-square-foot (1,800-square-foot) southern sidewalk a community destination, offering youth play opportunities, programmed physical and educational activities, animal-friendly areas, and relaxation .

The park will officially open to the public this week, followed by a festive start in the spring.

“This work is about bringing Tenderloin neighbors together to change their neighborhood,” said Simon Bertrang, executive director of the Tenderloin Community Benefit District, who oversaw much of the planning and execution of this project. “We are proud to support this process of building community power through collaboration.”

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has already installed concrete traffic barriers between lanes and the space reserved for pedestrians and programmers. Community members later painted a mural on the barriers.

SPark is awaiting final approval from The City to add a parklet platform with floor paintings for the entire length of the space, followed by additional design elements such as boulders and plants to create a greener environment for visitors.

Once the space is fully functional, it will be kept clean by a coalition of stakeholders such as TLCBD, Downtown Streets Team, and Urban Alchemy. They are supported by the Public Works and Recology Department, who have offered to provide cleaning resources.

“Residents say they can rest tonight because it’s quiet and quiet outside for the first time,” Norma Carrera, a tenderloin resident and member of the 200/300 Turk Street Block Group, said in a statement. “During the day, when I go out with my family to get something to eat, it’s clean outside.”

As one of the most densely populated areas of San Francisco and one of the most dangerous in terms of traffic violence in the city, the Tenderloin has long strived to provide easy access to green spaces, traffic calming measures, wide sidewalks and routes suitable for alternative forms of mobility are.

That fight only got worse when the pandemic broke out.

Residents, many of whom are immigrants, seniors, children or people with reduced mobility in the tenderloin, lost significant transit access as part of muni cuts and had to stay close to their home under city-wide conditions.

Programs like Play Streets, where the same block was closed to car traffic for a set number of hours on selected Saturdays in 2020, provided some respite, gave children the opportunity to participate in games and activities, and provided valuable community members Resources available such as COVID-19 testing. However, many wanted such efforts to become more permanent institutions in the community.

SPark and TL Transforms, the broader movement to get Tenderloin’s neighbors to change the physical streets in their neighborhood, are looking to build on that success.

“While the pandemic has created challenges for our communities, it has also given residents, stakeholders, and the city an opportunity to come together and create a safe passage for all,” said Diane Ponce De Leon, director of Invest in Neighborhoods, of Collaboration between agencies.

Although city authorities played an incremental role in implementing this initiative, organizers say it is actually the result of a community-driven process, including a survey that produced over 300 results and design exercises carried out by experienced youth and families carried out firsthand what activities they would benefit from.

A diverse coalition of groups has stepped up to provide assistance, including two highly regarded design and architecture firms, Envelope and Studio O, largely funded by the Office of Economic and Human Resources Development, and the Chinatown Community Development Center, the Cross Cultural Family Center, Salvation Army Kroc Center and many other partners.

“Safe Passage Park has been a neighborhood-focused project from the start – a response to the need for children, families and the wider community to have space for socially distant gatherings,” Cassiopea McDonald, a project designer for Envelope, said in a statement. “We look forward to testing the park live in the next few months and receiving direct feedback from the community as we gradually implement the project!”

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