The Daily Pennsylvanian: University City District expands green spaces

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Link to original article

Even with increasing retail and residential development in University City, green space is also on the rise.

The University City District has been undertaking projects to increase the green space in University City due to a growing demand for pedestrian amenities.

The district’s biggest project is the Porch at 30th Street Station. The 55-by-500-foot-wide space opened in 2011, when UCD transformed an area for parallel parking into a stretch of sidewalk with colorful seating, food trucks and greenery.

According to UCD’s Director of Planning and Economic Development Prema Gupta, the district is working with a landscape architect to further enhance the Porch. Future improvements to the space could include a water fountain and a cafe.

“There’s an argument to be made that the Porch could be a Rittenhouse Square at the gateway of University City,” Gupta said. She added that the current Porch is a “placeholder” until they further invest in the area.

With the construction of the west entrance to the 30th Street Station lasting until Thanksgiving, UCD added a “green wall” around the construction site — putting planters of greenery along a custom-made wall that separated the construction site from the Porch.

Further west in University City, the trolley station at 40th Street between Woodland and Baltimore avenues will get a green makeover. Of the 16,000 square feet of the trolley station, 7,000 will be developed into greenery. Current plans include planters, trees around the site and a green roof for the portal.

Also along Woodland is the recently transformed Woodland Park, which opened in 2012. The project turned a stretch of street on 42nd Street and Woodland Avenue into a place with a huge planter made from tree trunks that fell down in Woodland Cemetery. The space also includes seating surrounded by planters filled with greenery.

“Living in an area where there isn’t a lot of federal money for these kinds of projects, we like to do more with less,” Gupta added.

Woodland Park was the first project to take advantage of the City of Philadelphia’s Pedestrian Plaza Program, an initiative that will work with communities to change places with too much asphalt into pedestrian-friendly areas.

Another participant in the Pedestrian Plaza Program is Baltimore Crossing, a renovation of the intersection of 48th Street, Baltimore Avenue and Florence Avenue, which opened this summer. The project put three “bumpouts,” or barriers that extend pedestrian space and are designed to reduce the speed of turning vehicles, into place at the five-way intersection. The bumpouts are made of terra-cotta style planters filled with vegetation and blocks of Pennsylvania bluestone.

“The purpose is to reclaim streets and asphalt spaces as places for pedestrians,” Gupta said. “We’re stuck with these wide streets everywhere that are a legacy of when investment was about automobiles.”