As someone who lives in University City, and works in Center City, I regularly pass through the 2900 block of Market Street, or as I see it, the ugliest streetscape in the whole downtown. Even though the block is flanked by two of the most striking buildings in the city, 30th Street Station on the north side and the former 30th Street Post Office (now IRS Service Center) on the south side, the streetscape has been a mix of crumbling, dirty sidewalks and a row of broken planters. The dilapidated streetscape had the effect of making the block look dreary and ugly, despite the beautiful buildings on either side. It has always been a disappointment to walk through on the way to Center City, and I often look up towards the Center City skyline to get some visual relief from the drab block. Fortunately, several entities are now working to renovate and, ultimately, reimagine this stretch of Market Street.
The effort has been led by Penn DOT (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation) and the University City District, a community and business organization that works to improve, maintain, and attract business to University City. These groups, along with Amtrak, the city, the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, and developer Brandywine Realty Trust, are planning to turn the sidewalk along 30th Street Station into a plaza with tables (with umbrellas) and chairs, planters that would have trees and other plants, and new lighting. There would be a new sidewalk on the south side of the street, along the former Post Office, as well. The plaza would widen the sidewalk along 30th Street Station by eliminating a 40 foot wide traffic lane between the station and the Market Street sidewalk. This is expected to be a first phase to start to reimagine this block as an inviting and active public space for pedestrians, including visitors of the train station. The plaza would have special programs planned, such as festivals, farmers’ markets, holiday events, and even concerts.
Future plans could include food kiosks, more plantings, public art, and a permanent buffer along Market Street. The next phase will depend on funding, of course, but PennDOT and the University City District want to start the process to bring attention to their efforts to change this area and to observe what happens with the first phase. The next phase would be planned with much input from the public, what the UCD calls “crowdsourcing“, and the name for the plaza next to 30th Street Station would also be crowdsourced, meaning that the University City District is holding a public competition to choose the name. The winner of the competition will receive a $500 voucher from Amtrak and, of course, bragging rights to what could be a historic public space and name. The name suggestions have to be submitted by September 30th and must include the name, a brief explanation of the reasoning for the name, and the submitter’s address, phone, and email address. The winner will be chosen by a jury of ten judges and will be announced on October 19th. The link for the contest is firstname.lastname@example.org and the link to the University City District’s website article is here. And, I have renderings of the new public space and photos of the current conditions and construction below.
This new plaza would be happening at the same time as the new Penn Park between Walnut Street and South Street, officially opening today, the completion of the new South Street Bridge, a colorful new sidewalk along JFK Boulevard and in front of 30th Street Station along the river, and dramatic new lighting on the former 30th Street Post Office. Future public space improvements include new and improved sidewalks along the Walnut Street Bridge (already funded), a new mural next to the Walnut Street Bridge, an extension of the Schuylkill Banks jogging trail with a new boardwalk down to South Street, a new pedestrian bridge from the jogging trail over the railroad tracks at Locust Street, the continuation of the trail along the Dupont Crescent in Grays Ferry, and new light bulbs for the Market Street Bridge. This could lead to more development in the area, like the long proposed Cira South development on Walnut and Chestnut Streets at 30th Street and new development on Market Street and on sites east of the Schuylkill River. These improvements, and subsequent developments, could increase demand for housing, office space, hotels, and retail and add to property values. If you are interested in purchasing or selling a home or investment property in this constantly improving area, don’t forget to contact me at email@example.com and check out my Facebook realtor page, Gabriel G. Philly Realtor. You can, also, check out our Condo Shop website, at www.thecondoshops.com, or check out our Condo Shop Facebook page, here.