City replaces dangerous University City intersection with minipark

Friday, September 21, 2012

A TODDLER in a blue baseball cap sat Wednesday in a stroller eating ice cream in West Philadelphia. His mother sat next to him in an orange bistro chair.

Only six months ago, right where the pair were relaxing in the late-summer sun, cars and buses whizzed through what was a traffic triangle at 42nd Street and Woodland Avenue.

Now the triangle is blocked off by large wooden planters filled with flowers and trees, and a small, dangerous "redundant" street has been removed to create a new minipark.

"You never knew if a car or a bus was going to turn before you stepped out to try to get to the triangle," said Mickey Cohen, chief of staff to University of the Sciences President Helen Giles-Gee.

The Woodland Green plaza sits in the heart of the University of the Sciences campus. This new green space links the Woodlands, Clark Park and the campus, said Seth Budick, manager of policy and research for University City District.

Woodland Green is a project of the UCD, the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities, the Streets Department and the University of the Sciences, which will provide upkeep.

"It ties our campus together," said Cohen. "We have people coming from offices at 41st Street and down to 45th Street. Now there's a place where people can sit and meet. It's bringing life to the street."

Budick said the goal was not only to create a nice spot to gather, but also to boost economic development on Woodland Avenue.

The plaza, which cost about $50,000 - $30,000 from city funds - is across Woodland from a new-looking building with a Starbucks and a university bookstore.

"Beautiful places encourage businesses to invest," Budick said.

Some of the large, uneven boards in the planters are reclaimed floor joists taken from old University City houses. The plaza's center is a 20-by-30-foot planter made of logs from tulip poplars.

Woodland Green is the first of several concrete islands slated to become green miniparks around the city.

Rina Cutler, the deputy mayor of transportation and utilities, said the city gets closer to achieving its stormwater-management goals "every time we can take out a little piece of concrete and asphalt" and replace it with rain-absorbing surfaces.

"This hit many of my goals," she said.

Original Article