Parklets and Plazas: University City District Making West Philly More Pedestrian-FriendlyBy Andy Sharpe |
A view of the parklet named “The Porch” at 30th Street Station.
As new development continues to spark from Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, and non-academic developers in University City, the need for enhanced pedestrian amenities in University City becomes magnified. With this in mind, the University City District has developed a laser-like focus on improving the pedestrian experience through pedestrian plazas and parklets. The Special Services District is savoring the success of The Porch at 30th St. Station and its recently re-opened parklet by Clark Park, and is working on two new pedestrian plazas.
The University City District’s (UCD’s) efforts with The Porch were recently recognized with a half-million dollar grant from the William Penn Foundation. The grant is earmarked for programming and general improvements at the train station pedestrian plaza. Prema Gupta, Director of Planning and Economic Development for UCD, says the District is looking to include an Amtrak status board, a food kiosk, and improved wireless internet connectivity for users. According to Gupta, less spotty Wi-Fi has been the biggest suggestion among those relaxing on The Porch. The District also wants to incorporate a public art component, as Gupta wants to make it “a permanent place for temporary art.”
A view of the parklet on 43rd and Baltimore Ave.
Locals, and others from across the Delaware Valley, continue to flock to the parklet on 43rd St. by Clark Park, even with the searing heat the region recently experienced. The parklet, which is in front of the locally adored Green Line Café, replaces two parking spaces with tables, chairs, and plants and was born into this world last year. It re-opened for the season in late June and hasn’t missed a heartbeat from last year. Gupta reports that it’s “wildly popular,” as her family couldn’t find any space available during their recent weekend visits. Despite it being eclipsed by the far more rotund Clark Park, its presence increased the café’s revenue by 15% last year, adds Gupta.
While the pedestrian plaza and the parklet concepts are still fresh to University City residents, students, and visitors, the UCD is already poised to plan out two more pedestrian plazas and a parklet.
The first of these to open will be a pedestrian plaza near the University of the Sciences at 42nd and Woodland. This plaza is intended to be a “lush green space” which will include trees, tables, and chairs, says Gupta. She continues that the historic Woodlands Cemetery will assist efforts by fabricating planters. Pedestrians who pass by the space will notice that it was recently painted, in an effort undertaken by the city. It may be open as soon as early to mid-September says Gupta.
For the attractive role the 42nd and Woodland plaza will play, UCD is embarking on its other pedestrian plaza at the bustling intersection of 48th St, and Baltimore and Florence Aves with safety at heart. The tri-street intersection is currently a role of the dice for pedestrian safety, which is made more dangerous by the amount of walkers who jaywalk through it. Given that Gupta almost got hit by a car on Lancaster Ave. two weeks into her job, she’s keenly aware of the need to shorten the distance pedestrians need to cross here. To do this, the District will be using “re-purposed boulders and planters” from a local resident. This plaza’s opening date depends largely on when Baltimore Ave. gets re-paved.
The upcoming pedestrian plazas in University City are just two of the plazas and parklets throughout the city that were approved for design and construction funding from the city’s Office of Transportation and Utilities, according to Ariel Ben-Amos, a senior planner and analyst with the Office. The Ogontz Ave. Re-development Corporation (OARC) received funding for a plaza at Washington Ln. and Stenton Ave., while the South Street Headhouse District was awarded money for a plaza at South St. and Passyunk Ave. In addition, Ben-Amos says that parklets on Main St. in Manayunk, Wagner Ave. in Logan, 10th St. in Chinatown, and Frankford Ave. in Fishtown will be funded.
Ben-Amos and Gupta concur on the myriad values of pedestrian amenities such as plazas and parklets. “Pedestrian plazas and parklets enhance pedestrian safety [and provide] more eyes on the street,” praises Ben-Amos. Gupta lauds pedestrian amenities as encouraging health and convenience. Both Gupta and Ben-Amos shine a flashlight on San Francisco as being a city that has boosted “livability” through pedestrian plazas and parklets. Finally, Gupta says that these amenities are a “lighter, quicker, cheaper” way to develop “placemaking,” which is important in an evolving city struggling through a continuously sour economy.
Photos by Brandon Reynolds via NewsWorksblog comments powered by Disqus