Philadelphians love their cars—one only has to attend one neighborhood zoning meeting or look at South Broad’s median to learn that. So it’s still a bit of a wonder that the Porch, a park next to 30th Street Station that replaced more than two dozen parking spaces, ever happened.
It took a lot of trial and error, according to University City District, which just released it’s five-year report of the Porch. It’s chockfull of lessons they learned from the process, like the importance of partnerships and community input, as well as a plethora of data they collected over the years, including how many people hang out there on a daily basis (Hint: 1,500 to 2,000).
Take a little stroll down memory lane via these before-after photos, courtesy of Google Streetview, to see and learn how this strip of concrete went from 30 parking spaces to a 30,000-square-foot park.
Before the Porch, the Market Street side of 30th Street Station wasn’t exactly a welcoming space for visitors to Philadelphia. That was the incentive for University City District to begin brainstorming ideas of a more inviting public space. PennDOT agreed to build a 55’x500’ stretch of sidewalk, which became the foundation for the Porch. By 2011, the UCD unveiled the Porch v. 1.0, a $375,000 project that included moveable furniture and landscaping.
The Porch was almost immediately successful, with locals and visitors drawn to the simple, but colorful furniture. What users may not have realized is that all the while, UCD was conducting experiments to see what would and wouldn’t work for the space, hosting an array of programming from yoga classes to flea markets to food trucks, as soon in the June 2014 photo. “In the past five years, we have learned that farmers’ markets don’t work well in that location, alternating food options are better than one static offering, and many people don’t feel comfortable practicing yoga between a train station and a heavily trafficked road,” the report states.
Porch 2.0 debuted in spring of 2015, with the help of Groundswell Design Group and Gehl Studio. The new look kept the modular furniture, while adding in 14 permanent bench swings, new plantings, and more seating. The changes brought 33 percent more visitors to the Porch.
The UCD writes, “Our greatest lesson learned is that the best public spaces are those that respond to and evolve with the needs of their users, no matter where they are located.”
- The Porch: 5 Years Later [University City District]