Penn Park to open soon and a new bridge at Locust Street is being built

The brand new park, on the University City waterfront that the University of Pennsylvania has been building for some time, is about to open to the public any day now.  At the same time, a new connector bridge over the CSX rail tracks at Locust Street, on the east side of the Schuylkill River, has begun construction.  These two new developments are big steps in developing the Schuylkill waterfront between Walnut and South Streets.

The new park, on the University City waterfront, will be known as Penn Park and is designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.  It sits on a 24-acre site, which used to be a parking lot for the Postal Service, that Penn purchased several years ago, running from Walnut Street all the way down to South Street, and flanked on either side by railroad tracks.  On the west side is the raised Highline freight tracks and on the east side are freight and passenger railroad tracks, including rails used by Amtrak and their Acela train as it runs along the Schuylkill waterfront to and from 30th Street Station.  It has been planned for years and costs $42 million.  It will primarily be a series of playing fields for football, soccer, sprinting, softball, and tennis.  The softball field will have an inflatable dome in the colder weather, so it can be used for concerts and indoor sports.  It will include a winding running track, between the fields, and many trees and native grasses.  It, also, includes an advanced storm water runoff drainage system, that was being laid out over several months last winter.  The side along Walnut Street has a parking lot that will eventually be replaced with new buildings for Penn, possibly including a Glaxo-Smithkline medical research center.  It is across the street from the proposed Cira Centre South development and the World Cafe Live entertainment venue on Walnut Street.  The Walnut Street side will have an interesting entrance, but the South Street side does not have an entrance yet.  Hopefully they will remedy that soon.  Penn would like to soon build new dorms on the Hill Field, on Chestnut Street, and replace the tennis courts on 33rd Street, between the Palestra and Franklin Field, with a new plaza called Shoemaker Green.  The new fields at Penn Park allow them to replace these older fields and courts with new developments.  You can see more about the Penn Park project with this link from the Penn Connects website.

The connector bridge, at Locust Street on the east side of the river, has also been planned for some time.  It is being funded largely by the freight rail company CSX, who agreed to build the bridge as part of an agreement several years ago to provide better access at the Locust Street crossing over their tracks.  The Schuylkill River Development Corporation has been leading the effort to improve access to the park along the Schuylkill, since it was built in 2004.  Their plans to build the bridge were delayed by a neighborhood group a few weeks ago, who threatened to sue to save a dog park and trees in the older part of the Schuylkill River Park, at the end of Spruce Street.  An agreement was worked out to provide a temporary dog park and reduce the number of trees to be cut down.

The new bridge will start at what is now the end of the running trail along the river and will end where the dog park used to be, next to the private garden spaces and the basketball courts, just west of the Spruce Street approach to the park.  It will be a truss bridge with 12 foot wide walkways and will be ADA accessible, of course.  This will provide an alternative to walking over the railroad tracks, which are sometimes blocked by a moving or a parked train, and will join an intersection on the trail that will soon be extended by a boardwalk to South Street.  As if that isn’t enough, Penn may soon build a pedestrian bridge over the river between Penn Park and the Schuylkill River Park at Locust Street.  You can view a link, here, to the Schuylkill River Development Corporation‘s website that explains the connector bridge further.

All these developments will improve this stretch of the Schuylkill waterfront immensely, making the area between Walnut and South Streets a loop of activity on both sides of the river, with many access points.  This will add a great new amenity for Center City and University City that could be used by Penn and the community and will add green space, next to the Amtrak rail lines, where there was once just a bland parking lot.  It will enhance the adjacent neighborhoods and the views of the river, which could raise property values and encourage more waterfront development, such as Cira South and the proposed Mandeville Place condo tower at the end of Sansom Street.  And it would complement other improvements on the Schuylkill waterfront, including the Locust to South Street boardwalk, the Station Square plaza redevelopment on Market Street, and the improvements to the Walnut Street and Chestnut Street Bridges.  You can look at an extensive collection of photos of the Penn Park and connector bridge construction site, and the area, below.  And, if you would like to buy, sell, or rent a home or investment property in the neighborhoods near the Schuylkill River, contact me at or sign onto my Facebook realtor page, Gabriel G. Philly Realtor.  And you can check out our Condo Shop website, at, and sign onto our Condo Shop Facebook page, here.

Penn Park blueprint

Penn Park rendering

Rendering of Penn Park fields

Rendering of Penn Park from the south

A photo from March shows the advanced storm water drainage system under construction

Approaching Penn Park, from the east, on Walnut Street

Looking down the entrance to Penn Park from Walnut Street

View of Penn Park from Walnut Street, showing the playing fields and parking

View of Penn Park, facing southeast, from Walnut Street

Highline Park, between Walnut and Chestnut Streets

Penn Ice Rink is next to Penn Park

Pathway running alongside the Highline

Close up of the Penn Park soccer fields, with the city skyline in the background

Tall lights over the fields

Indoor tennis facility next to Penn Park

The Goldie Paley Bridge leads to the park from the Penn campus

Close up of tennis courts at Penn Park

Franklin Field is next to Penn Park and Paley Bridge

View of Penn Park from the south side

The Weave Bridge, as it is called, would connect the park to this parking lot

The busy intersection at the approach to the South Street Bridge

A new mixed-use, highrise building will be built here, along Walnut Street, across from the Penn Park

These tennis courts, between Franklin Field and the Palestra on 33rd Street, will be replaced by a new plaza

Shoemaker Green will be between the Palestra and Franklin Field, on 33rd Street

Rendering of the connector bridge @ Locust Street

Locust Street connector bridge at night

Site of the connector bridge near Locust Street

Looking south from the Walnut Street Bridge stairs

New Locust Street crossing @ CSX railroad tracks

Train passing through Schuylkill River Park at Locust Street, thus showing the need for the connector bridge

The temporary dog park @ the Schuylkill River Park, with construction on the bridge in the background

Rendering of proposed new boardwalk between Locust and South Streets, on the east side of the Schuylkill River

Looking down the Schuylkill River from the Walnut Street Bridge towards the South Street Bridge


About gabrielcgottlieb

I am a real estate agent at Long & Foster Real Estate Center City and someone who likes to write about development and urban planning in the City of Philadelphia. Contact me at if you are interested in buying or selling a home or investment property in Philadelphia.
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