Despite this excruciating recession preventing or delaying most new construction in the city, the city government and community groups are planning numerous public space improvements throughout. In some areas, there are so many improvements planned that these areas will be largely transformed in coming years in time for the economy to finally rebound. These areas include the Schuylkill and Delaware waterfronts, as most people know, but the Ben Franklin Parkway is also going to be experiencing so many improvements to public spaces that it is fair to say that the Parkway is being largely rebuilt during the recent past and the coming years.
Some improvements happened a few years ago, such as the renovation of LOVE Park and fancier street lights up and down the roadway, as well as, new lighting focused on the buildings and artwork. Then, Logan Circle was renovated with new trees, new benches, and renovations to our beloved Swann Memorial Fountain. The most recently completed renovations are at Aviator Park, across from the Franklin Institute on 20th Street, which also has new benches, lighting, walkways, artwork, and a renovated (and shinier) World War I Aero Memorial, as well as, the Triangle Park at 16th & the Parkway, which has a fancy new cafe (called Cafe Cret) with outdoor seating, new walkways, lighting, and benches.
In 2008, the city and state announced plans to do several more renovations around Logan Circle and along the western blocks. The next noteworthy renovation around Logan Circle, to be started this year, is the re-creation of Sister Cities Plaza, a park across 18th Street from the Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul. This park is intended to commemorate Philadelphia’s international sister cities, Tel Aviv, Israel; Florence, Italy and Tianjin, China. The redevelopment, outlined on the Center City District’s website, is being funded by the state and the Pew Charitable Trusts, and designed by DIGSAU Architects, Pennoni Engineers, and Studio Bryan Hanes. The improvements include a modern new cafe and community room in front of a children’s play area and a fountain. There will, again, be new lighting, benches, landscaping, and less obstructive trees. The new trees are intended to allow people to see the Cathedral more clearly. The 3,000 square foot cafe and community pavilion will have geothermal cooling, a green wall, and a green roof.
The renovations further west are already underway. They include a revamping of the grounds around the Rodin Museum and repaving the 2100 and 2200 blocks of the Parkway. The improvements around the Rodin Museum will create new pathways that run the same route as the dirt walkways that were created over time, as well as, new lighting, benches, shrubs and exterior renovations to the museum and courtyard. The courtyard inside has a fountain and garden that will be renovated. Also, the landmark statue out front, The Thinker, has been polished. I just happened to be walking by the day they reinstalled The Thinker onto the pedestal in front of the museum after months of cleaning and polishing. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me.
The repaving of the 2100 & 2200 blocks will reconfigure the lanes for better bicycle access and will put the parking on the other side of the interior lanes. The new sidewalks will have brick pavers on either side. There will be new benches and granite curbs. The renovations for these blocks are long overdue and should be done within a few months.
Other public space improvements that will be happening in the next couple of years include renovating Shakespeare Park, in front of the Central Library. This will certainly include new lighting and benches, but also will cover part of the Vine Street Expressway at 20th Street. Also, there will be a new plaza in front of the new Barnes Foundation museum at the northwest corner of 20th & the Parkway. This will likely have a modern fountain and some benches and shrubs. And, I’ve already detailed the major improvements to Dilworth Plaza up at City Hall. Still further improvements that are in the planning stages include a total overhaul of Eakins Oval and changes to the busy intersection surrounding the Joan of Arc statue. You can view the plans being considered for these two sites from the website of the Parkway Council here.
So, all told, these many improvements will continue to change the Parkway. They will make the Parkway more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, busier at night, and will provide several new cafes and recreation areas. They will all complement dramatically the new developments on the Parkway, such as the Barnes Foundation’s new home, the expansion of the Central Library, the expansion of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the redevelopment of the Family Courts Building, the new Mormon Temple, and the small expansion of the Franklin Institute.
You can view the plans on the links that I provided and in the picture below.