Adjacent to the nation’s third busiest train station, the site is at the heart of the University City’s eastern end, an area only growing in vitality with the addition of more than 4,000 federal employees across the street, the prospect of future Cira buildings, the creation of Penn Park, and Drexel University’s growth-oriented master plan. 

To create The Porch, University City District was able to piggyback on a larger PennDOT project to rehabilitate six bridges adjacent to 30th Street Station. UCD’s vision for the site is the creation of an inviting, animated public place, with amenities such as abundant and comfortable seating, sun and shade, trees and plantings; ultimately, The Porch at 30th Street Station will become a vibrant magnet and a source of civic pride. However, in the interest of quickly and economically building upon the work of the PennDOT project, UCD looked to examples of new public spaces in other cities that have been developed by taking small, iterative, and experimental steps – Lighter Quicker Cheaper (LQC), as coined by the Project for Public Spaces – in order to determine what works best, rather than starting with large capital expenses.

UCD’s interpretation of LQC is that one leads with people, rather than with large capital investments. This approach resonates with UCD – not just because of its speed and efficacy – but because it plays to UCD’s organization strengths: cleaning and stewarding the public realm, and activating public spaces with destination events such as the Night Market and the Baltimore Avenue Stroll. 

2015 saw the biggest upgrade to date, when UCD partnered with Groundswell Design, Visit Philly, and Gehl Architects to bring in major features like custom-designed swings, an XOXO photo spot, festoon lighting, and improved landscaping and seating options.The goal of the enhancements, dubbed Porch 2.0, was to increase use of the space at times other than lunch—since the improvements were completed, UCD has observed a 130% increase in usage during off-peak hours, including Saturdays. For 2016, UCD has partnered with the Philadelphia Mobile Food Association to bring rotating food trucks back to The Porch. 

About the Porch

Realizing the Potential of The Porch

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The Porch at 30th Street Station sits amidst a dense concentration of Philadelphia’s education, medicine and innovation sectors and is used by thousands of daily commuters and first-time visitors, and surrounded by more than 16,000 jobs. In fewer than two years, The Porch has developed into an oasis of activity, respite and interaction through an observation-based and iterative design process that is changing the way people think about public space. With vibrancy to the east and west, The Porch has already “sparked new economic activity” (Next American City). In September 2013, UCD released one of the most extensive post-occupancy studies of a public space. This study has guided improvements at The Porch.