Big Grant Will Mean Future Improvements at the Porch

Mr. Fox

When the folks from University City District dedicated The Porch last November, they could hardly afford to purchase planters to decorate this new public space outside 30th Street Station.

They brainstormed and eventually purchased agricultural troughs that formerly were used to feed livestock (moo). Then they applied green technology to the troughs and retrofitted the basins and transformed them into the planters that now dot Market Street.

Planters

That’s a good idea. And there will be more on the way thanks to a recent $500K grant (they fabricated the park with $275K in capital resources) offered by the William Penn Foundation. According to UCD’s director of planning and economic development Prema Gupta, the vision for UCD is to create a park in phases that when completed, will offer the same quality amenities as the recently renovated Sisters City Park, or the still new Race Street Pier. The grant will contribute to that vision and be applied to future programming and infrastructure.

“I think the era of being able to create a park like [that] in one full swoop is over,” said Gupta.

Since the park opened, a UCD staff-member, hired for the specific purpose of being planted at the Porch, has monitored the site and surveyed the people who have visited the park. They’ve asked why they came, where they’re from and what they want to see there.

The resounding response has been people want WiFi and a food kiosk. According to Gupta, the site is most populated at lunchtime during a beautiful day. The size of the crowd at The Porch is directly related to the programming, she said. That has included weekly concerts, as well as a free pop-up mini golf course this month and a beer garden.

A recent afternoon. Nomad Pizza and mini-golf

It’s possible a permanent retail space, maybe with a rotating cast of retailers, might manifest in the future, or a landscaped buffer wall between Market Street and The Porch, or a public art installation. UCD is exploring many options at this time. Before anything is decided, however, they’ll have to determine what land-use is acceptable at the location.

Plans in the near future call for a partnership with PennPRAXIS, who will host some focus groups this fall, and a September 7 XPN Free at Noon concert. Cool. That means we’ll be able to bring a flask.

--Lou Mancinelli