Celebrating Ten Years of The Porch at 30th Street Station

Before and after shot of the Porch at 30th
Nov 01, 2021 34 days ago

In 2010, the southern boundary of Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station – home to Amtrak, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), New Jersey Transit and their combined 27,000 daily commuters – was a drab strip of concrete. The area seemed to exist exclusively for cars entering and exiting the Schuylkill Expressway, or whizzing down Market Street through six lanes of traffic. Despite the grandeur of the historic station – which opened onto views of the Schuylkill River, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and downtown Center City – the site was barren, with no trees, shade or character to speak of. It certainly did not serve as a welcoming gateway to the region or Philadelphia’s flourishing University City neighborhood.

But this corner of Philadelphia was changing, and change was going to come quickly. In addition to the millions of passengers who stream through 30th Street every year, 16,000 people worked within a five-minute walk of the station. At the time, the Internal Revenue Service was in the process of relocating 5,000 employees to a building across the street that had previously housed the Philadelphia General Post Office, while Drexel University, Brandywine Realty Trust and others were beginning to pursue large scale development projects. 

When the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) started rehabilitating bridges in the area, an opportunity arose to reimagine the physical environment outside the station. Over the course of a year, University City District (UCD) – a partnership of anchor institutions, businesses and residential communities with the mission of community revitalization in University City – worked with stakeholders to transform 33 parking spaces into a pedestrian-friendly public space adjacent to 30th Street Station. In November 2011, UCD unveiled The Porch at 30th Street Station, featuring moveable furniture, landscaping, and a vision for how public space can transform a community.

Today, after ongoing iterations and increasing amounts of investment, The Porch offers a variety of comfortable and intimate spaces for people to lounge, unwind and enjoy landscaped surroundings, festive lighting, creative programming, food and beverages, and places to recharge their electronics and themselves. It has become an animated spot to stop and rest on the walk between Center City and University City; linger over a food truck lunch with a friend; or enjoy a few minutes outside while waiting for a train.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, many workers and commuters stayed home, but The Porch remained as a place to rest, meet comfortably outdoors, and eventually, enjoy lunch and performances again. Although the pandemic has prevented us from celebrating ten years of The Porch in a grand fashion, we're looking toward 2022 for more activations and a celebration. Stay tuned for more details, and in the meantime, take a look at the gallery below to see how The Porch has evolved over the years. We look forward to what the future will bring!