University City District Unveils Details for Porch 2.0

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

For Immediate Release

Contact: Lori Brennan, 215-243-0555 or [email protected]


Upgrades to the space include partnerships with urban landscaping firm Groundswell Design Group, custom swings from Gehl Studio, and a permanent food truck by restaurateur Michael Schulson

(Philadelphia, PA) – Since its introduction in late 2011, the Porch at 30th Street Station has become one of Philadelphia’s most vibrant public spaces, with amenities such as flexible seating, seasonal horticulture, and performances. Four years after its development, University City District (UCD) is introducing the first major set of upgrades that will further the Porch’s evolution, including elements designed by Groundswell Design Group and Gehl Studio as well as a new food and beverages partnership with restaurateur Michael Schulson, which will benefit UCD's West Philadelphia Skills Initiative.

The Porch, one of the most visible places in Philadelphia, is located next to the second busiest train station in America, with 18,000 employees within a five-minute walk, and 16,000 people passing through the site daily. The Porch was Philadelphia’s first “lighter quicker cheaper” public space, and involved simple, cost-effective, and fully removable elements. After a year of operating the space and studying user behavior, UCD introduced additional elements and programming in order to increase dwell times and total users.

According to Matt Bergheiser, UCD’s Executive Director, “We want travelers to get a palpable sense of the creativity and vibrancy of the City as soon as they leave the station. But it’s not just for visitors—a revamped Porch will continue to be an important amenity for locals and continue to serve as the foundation of the Innovation Neighborhood's social and civic infrastructure."

"Great public spaces are built over time," says Prema Katari Gupta, Director of Planning and Economic Development. "They evolve in response to user behavior." UCD believes that high quality public spaces should be built iteratively – with an initially modest capital investment and a feedback loop to inform future improvements.  After witnessing increases in usage and enjoyment with each new added amenity, UCD concluded it was time to do a thoughtful but major upgrade, leading to a combination of new physical amenities and programming that will advance the evolution of the space to accommodate nearby residents, commuters, workers, and visitors in this next iteration of the Porch. We’re excited to present Porch 2.0, the next version in the Porch’s evolution.


Site Redesign and Enhancements from Groundswell Design

Groundswell Design Group—the firm behind Spruce Street Harbor Park, Morgan’s Pier, and the Independence Beer Garden—has completed a plan to enhance and transform the Porch through a new landscaping design. Groundswell’s site plan will introduce a series of tiered wooden platforms, intermingled with planters and vine canopies that offer a variety of comfortable and intimate spaces for people to sit and enjoy each other’s company, savor the food and drink, or simply lounge and linger. Overhead festoon lighting will add charm and vitality to the space after dark and help increase the site’s usage at night and on weekends. The upgrades will integrate with the existing plants, furniture, and hardscaping to form an even brighter, more vibrant, and welcoming space for visitors. Groundswell’s improvements to the Porch are made possible by a generous grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as part of their Knight Arts Challenge grant.


Custom “Porch Swings” Designed by Gehl Studio

Continuing UCD’s mission to be a leader in innovative social seating comes a collaboration with San Francisco-based Gehl Studio to create custom-made swings designed exclusively for the revamped Porch at 30th Street Station. In designing the swings, UCD challenged the team at Gehl to think about a variety of critical components for the swings, such as ergonomics, materials, the user base, the constraints of the space, and the planned future site modifications coming from Groundswell. The result includes several slatted, brightly-painted wooden swings that will populate the space and add to user enjoyment. The swings are made possible in part thanks to a grant from ArtPlace.  


Michael Schulson’s Rotisserie at the Porch

UCD and Chef-Restaurateur Michael Schulson (Sampan, Graffiti Bar, Independence Beer Garden, Izakaya, and coming-soon Double Knot) have collaborated to develop Rotisserie at the Porch, a permanent food and beverage concept that will help heighten the Porch’s profile as an outdoor destination in University City. Building upon the success of Schulson’s Independence Beer Garden, this new venture includes a parked food truck with a specifically designed and newly installed rotisserie that will serve lunch seven days a week, plus a beverage trailer that will offer beer and liquor options Wednesdays-Saturdays from 4-9pm. “We at MJS Restaurants are excited to partner with UCD to bring a new and delicious food and beverage experience to the Porch. We’re thrilled to be part of UCD's enhancement project for what is becoming yet another vibrant city hub,” says Schulson. The addition of The Rotisserie aims to transform the Porch from a destination for the working crowd to a space animated throughout the week and into the evening. Revenue from the Rotisserie will benefit University City District’s West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI) program, which connects West Philadelphia employers seeking talent to West Philadelphians seeking opportunity by working within an employer-driven, jobs-first model.


About University City District (UCD): UCD promotes a world class, vibrant University City through major investments in public space development, public maintenance and public safety, by connecting entrepreneurs and residents to economic opportunity, and through the creation and management of destination events.


About West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI): WPSI's mission is to connect West Philadelphia employers seeking talent to West Philadelphians seeking opportunity to build local workforce capacity and to support people in realizing their full economic potential. By working within an employer-driven, jobs-first model, we create programming that effectively connects people to work.


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