Parking On Eakins Oval To Go Finally In Parkway Shift

 

From "Action Plan" for the Parkway | Image: Penn Praxis

From “Action Plan” for the Parkway | Image: Penn Praxis

If the City of Philadelphia gets its way, by the beginning of the summer the parking lot on Eakins Oval will be gone. In its place: a shared, pedestrian focused space officials imagine using for concerts, revolving art installations, floral displays, and pop-up dining events.

The move, based on lessons learned at the Porch at 30th Street Station, is a clear gesture to improve pedestrian access and amenities along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, topping the list of numerous low-cost improvements in the city’s latest Parkway action plan, “More Park, Less Way.” The plan, which is the result of an extensive community engagement process led by Penn Praxis and the Penn Project on Civic Engagement that sought ideas for improving the Parkway before the end of Mayor Nutter’s term in 2015, was officially unveiled last night at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

With its new flex space and increased pedestrian access via sidewalks, walking paths, moveable seating, and bike lanes, the new Eakins Oval is set to undergo the most dramatic change outlined in the plan, and is envisioned as becoming a key civic node that places the pedestrian experience in the fore.

“This is a very ambitious plan,” says parks commissioner Michael DiBerardinis. “It won’t cost a lot of money to implement but there will still be a lot of physical improvements.”

With Eakins Oval as the priority, improvements will focus on four open spaces in total, with the aspiration of luring more residents that live within a 10 minute walk (estimated at 70,000 people in total) to utilize the boulevard and its green spaces more often. DiBerardinis would not reveal sources of funding for the planned interventions.

Some improvements are fundamental. On the north edge, mending the divide between the Parkway and the Spring Garden and Fairmount neighborhoods is seen as a must. Narrowing Pennsylvania Avenue and clarifying parking spaces would pave the way for creating an accessible two acre, human-scaled neighborhood park on green space currently featuring Mark di Suvero’s massive sculpture “Iroquois.”

One of the underutilized public spaces targeted | Photo: Peter Woodall

One of the underutilized public spaces targeted | Photo: Peter Woodall

At Von Colln Memorial Field, improved crossings at 23rd Street and Pennsylvania Avenue as well as the installation of gateway features will help solidify its place as the recreational hub for northerly neighborhoods.

Others changes focus on adding amenities to underutilized green spaces. On the southern edge, the plan’s call to action focuses on the three acre strip of land in front of Park Towne Place, reinvisioning the area as a mix of active and passive recreation with volleyball and bocce ball courts, chess tables, enclosed play areas, food kiosks, and restrooms.

Of the four areas, DiBerardinis is quick to note that each space’s treatment has yet to be designed, but he hopes at least two–Eakins Oval, and the Park Towne Place site–will immediately move forward into design and construction.

Planned investment in and around Eakins Oval | Image: Penn Praxis

Planned investment in and around Eakins Oval | Image: Penn Praxis

Once complete, the new spaces will feature a series of unique, ongoing programmed events. With hopeful funding from the Parkway’s cultural institutions, the City will hire a Parkway manager to oversee everything from live theater performances on the “Iroquois” site to puppet theater at Von Colln, more Made in America-type festivals on Eakins Oval to bocce tournaments at Park Towne Place.

Planners say it will be critical to tie programmed spaces together with improved north-south crosswalks. Doubly important is expanding the Phlash transit system beyond a tourist-focused approach. Increasing service hours, changing vehicles types to appeal to more users, and tying the system into SEPTA interchange points are seen as small-scale, achievable interventions over the next few years.

These improvements will not be delivered in a vacuum; they coincide with numerous ongoing projects. Over the past decade, the City, alongside Center City District and Fairmount Park, together with the State of Pennsylvania and the Pew Charitable Trusts, have implemented millions worth of improved pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, lighting, street trees, park space and fountains, cafes, and programmable spaces such as Sister Cities Park.

With Paine’s Park under construction, more State funded improvements coming to the 1600 and 1700 blocks this year, and the massive reconstruction of Dilworth Plaza set to open next year, DiBerardinis says the Parkway has seen upwards of $80 million worth of investment in urban design in the past decade, with the renovation of LOVE Park and the capping of some parts of I-676 in front of the Central Branch of the Free Library still coming. All this adds up, DiBerardinis believes, to the largest investment in the Parkway since its construction a century ago.

The present “Action Plan,” he argues, “has a lot of ambition,” building off past momentum, connecting what has been done to what will move the Parkway forward, making it more inviting for an ever-increasing number of Center City residents.

Identifying accessibility points | Image: Penn Praxis

Identifying accessibility points | Image: Penn Praxis

Despite this, some observers, including the Inquirer’s Inga Saffron, have noted critically that the small scale and incremental changes, though thoughtful, don’t alter the Parkway’s fundamental auto orientation. “The new plan shies away from confronting the fundamental design issues that are the source of the Parkway’s failure,” she wrote, in particular the dangerous lack of pedestrian connection between Eakins Oval and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

For its part, the “Action Plan” recognizes its short-term, low-cost limits, an approach DiBerardinis says is necessary and grounded in economic realities due to ever shrinking local, state, and federal budgets.

Still, DiBerardinis expects the small interventions will have a big impact. “With 70,000 people [living close to the Parkway], it’s not a big leap to assume people will immediately begin using the new spaces.”

About the author

Greg Meckstroth is an urban planner/designer, freelance writer, and recent Philly transplant. Greg received a Master of Community Planning from the University of Cincinnati in 2009 and has spent the last few years bouncing around the private sector planning world, more recently moving to Philly to work for a nationally renowned design firm in Center City. He also writes for Flying Kite Media and blogs at the Philadelphia Real Estate Blog. Twitter follow: @GMeckstroth.

Send a message!



2 Comments


  1. Good start!…
    Just spit-balling here, but… We are working on a Delaware River Trail, a high-line that dead-ends at the Vine Street Expressway, and there is a great Schuylkill River Trail that could essentially be extended into Logan Circle with the Parkway plan. It would be expensive, but an elevated (bridged?) pathway above the Vine Street Expressway could connect all three potentially!

  2. Hello jasomm..
    That HIGHLINE. ( viaduct Greene ) doesn’t have to stop at vine . Bring it full with across 676 to the right of the convention center ramp . Take that parking lot and make it a 3 or 4 story open sided parking structure . Cover
    the sides with iron work , put living panels with vines planted in them on every surface , wisteria is a great fast
    growing one . As the vines grow they get woven into the iron. Over time the entire structure is engulfed buy the
    vines . Now you have a mountain that can bridge the space where the viaduct comes across 676 and the roof
    of the convention center . You green roof the center’s bowed roof like the science museum in San Francisco .
    Put decking around the edges and between the mounds , you could also green over the new entrance on broad.
    ANYWAY ! Then you continue the park across to the reading terminal market . If you can’t put decking around
    the perimiter of the roof , then bring it right into the train shed . Taking back that space fron the convention center
    , they have plenty of space now . That makes the reading terminal market center city’s entrance to viaduct Greene…… Just spit balling here !

Trackbacks

  1. Lunchtime Quick Hits | Philadelphia Real Estate Blog
  2. Redesigning the Parkway - Page 22
  3. New CHOP Center Opens On West Market | Hidden City Philadelphia

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Digging Up Vine Street In Search Of Old Skid Row

Digging Up Vine Street In Search Of Old Skid Row

April 26, 2017  |  Vantage

Public health scholar Steve Metraux exhumes the heart of Philadelphia's Skid Row, buried under the Vine Street Expressway by the hands of urban renewal. > more

Khmer Monastery In Kingsessing Enlightens The Schuylkill

Khmer Monastery In Kingsessing Enlightens The Schuylkill

April 24, 2017  |  Vantage

Dan Papa celebrates the Cambodian New Year with a look at the Wat Khmer Palelai Buddhist temple under construction in Southwest Philly > more

Behind The Publicity Stunt At Benjamin Franklin's Grave

Behind The Publicity Stunt At Benjamin Franklin’s Grave

April 19, 2017  |  Vantage

Nearly 70 years after Benjamin Franklin’s death, public outcry demanding honor for the Founding Father transformed a battered, overgrown gravesite into a popular tourist destination. But the real story isn't at all what we've been told. Join Mark Dixon as he uncovers truth and public deception behind the hole in the wall at Benjamin Franklin's grave > more

A Powerhouse Of Footwork And Fitness On Delaware Ave

A Powerhouse Of Footwork And Fitness On Delaware Ave

April 18, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

On the outskirts of Fishtown, a dance club and rock climbing gym keep spirits high inside an old 19th century trolley car power station > more

Engineering & Architecture Ride The Rails At Athenaeum

Engineering & Architecture Ride The Rails At Athenaeum

April 15, 2017  |  Vantage

An exhibition at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia illuminates the history of railroad architecture through drawings, photographs, and more. Michael Bixler has the review > more

Ghost Station At Art Museum Rises From The Dead

Ghost Station At Art Museum Rises From The Dead

April 13, 2017  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. walks us through the origins of the mothballed "Art Museum Station," now being renovated at the PMA, and one man's visionary plan for mass transit in Philly that never came to be > more