Wednesday, September 25, 2013

(Philadelphia, PA) – University City District (UCD) is pleased to announce the release of Realizing the Potential of The Porch, a new report summarizing the rigorous research findings and lessons learned from the first year of The Porch at 30th Street Station. As one of the most extensive post-occupancy studies created for a public space, UCD is using the report (developed in collaboration with Interface Studio) to guide future improvements at The Porch.

In November 2011, UCD unveiled The Porch, quickly seizing upon an opportunity to humanize a new large stretch of sidewalk created by PennDOT where there had previously been 33 parallel parking spaces. UCD's long-term vision for The Porch has always been Philadelphia’s next great public space. However, acting quickly, UCD furnishing the space with simple and removable furnishings while attracting people to the space with a broad range of programming. The furnishings and events were accompanied by an ongoing study of site usage patterns (of approximately 24,000 users!), using a methodology inspired by pioneering urban sociologist William “Holly” Whyte.

"Rather than diving into expensive, irreversible capital improvements to The Porch, we were able to devise an experiment," said Prema Katari Gupta, UCD's Director of Planning and Economic Development. "With our 'beta test,' we've learned a tremendous amount about how people enjoy and interact with the space, and we can use this information to guide improvements in order to fully realize The Porch's potential as one of Philadelphia's great civic spaces."

The results are vividly articulated in the 30-page Realizing the Potential and will inform UCD’s more capital-intensive, long-term vision for The Porch. Just a few of UCD’s notable findings include that:

  • Nearly 2,000 people per day stop at The Porch, in addition to the more than 16,000 pedestrians that pass through. Those numbers are expected to double or triple in the coming years as The Porch sits at the epicenter of close to 8 million square feet of anticipated development—the equivalent of more than 10 new Cira Centres.
  • Despite its uniformity, different uses, such as talking and reading, cluster at different locations along The Porch, suggesting a new design that will need to respond to inherent user preferences, rather than the other way around.
  • The Porch experiences peak user densities almost twice as high as those at Love Park or Sister Cities Park, and three times as high as at Rittenhouse Square – a challenge that will need to be met in part via flexible, movable seating, an improvement favored by 71% of users.
  • A detailed map of how people actually move through The Porch revealed that some areas are more prone to stopping and lingering, while others are “pass through” spaces – a design challenge as The Porch aims to increase its user base while also facilitating pedestrian movement

The Porch at 30th Street Station sits amidst a dense concentration of Philadelphia’s education, medicine and innovation sectors, 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.

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About University City District

University City District (UCD) was founded in 1997 by a partnership of world-renowned anchor institutions, small businesses and residents to improve economic vitality and quality of life. Our primary mission is community revitalization. We work within a place-based, data-driven framework to invest in world-class public spaces, address crime and public safety, bring life to commercial corridors, connect low-income residents to careers, and promote job growth and innovation.