rodin museum

Project could finally happen

Across the street from the Wawa at 21st & Hamilton and behind the Rodin Museum, perhaps you've noticed a rather large pit with cars parked at the bottom. This section of the former City Branch could someday be part of a sunken rail park. And some of that space could also soon be covered by a new seven-story mixed-use building with residential units and "ground-floor retail."

We love Wawa
Across the street from Wawa

While any proposal is still in its early stages, it's not the first time developers have looked to build here. In the past, a twelve story building was proposed here, but those plans were never realized. Most recently, the area was pegged as an area ripe with future potential during the Phila2035 planning process, as an area that could be developed with streets, open space and more—with 1.6M sqft of redevelopment potential.

Last week, the City announced that beginning on July 17th, Eakins Oval in front of the Art Museum steps will be playing host to an inviting park and exciting project.

From the Parks and Recreation's announcement on their website, "eight acres of public space at the base of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway" will become a place to meet, play, and engage in activities offered by participating organizations. There is more information and renderings here.

Site plan

Running through August 20th, the currently paved parking lot space will convert to large open blocks of pedestrian-friendly turf with inviting benches, a stage for free live entertainment and movie nights, and the city's best food trucks coming through every day. According to the drawings, there will be seating for eating, lawn games to play, sandboxes to dig, and sprinklers for hot days.

Philadelphia’s Rail Park is an effort by three dedicated Philadelphians to transform an unused rail line into a grand pubic space that connects Fairmount Park to the cultural spine of Philadelphia along the Parkway down to City Hall. The space begins at the far end of Pennsylvania Avenue near 28th Street near Lemon Hill. That’s where a rail line runs underneath a tunnel that heads toward City Hall. Could that tunnel be of one Philadelphia’s next great civic spaces?

Map of the Rail Park

The Friends of Rail Park is the newly rebranded incarnation of the group formerly known as Viaduct Green. The group recently partnered with the OLIN studio to develop a vision for half a mile of the three mile former rail line that begins at Broad Street and runs three blocks west. The group calls it the park’s City Branch. The proposed park runs along an old rail line along Pennsylvania Avenue until part of it emerges below street level behind the Rodin Museum near 22nd and the Parkway. Around 18th and Callowhill, the part of the space that can be seen now is overgrown brush. The tunnel eventually connects with the proposed Reading Viaduct.

These Philadelphia streets are made for walking. Her walk score makes her the fifth most walkable city in the nation, according to America Walks. The group provides walk scores for cities across the nation.

Philadelphia, with a score of 74.1, ranked only behind New York City, San Francisco, Boston and Chicago.  The scores are based on the principles of new urbanism, and ultimately calculated using an algorithm that uses U.S. Census data, as well as locally collected information to determine how easy it is to walk around certain places.

Move out of the way, way. Now is the time for more park, and less way along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Various improvements have been made to the Parkway in recent years and more are coming. The Action Plan for the Parkway will be unveiled during a public meeting tonight at 5:30pm at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

The Academy, photo credit greatnonprofits.org

The plan, rooted in the “More Park, Less Way” theme, is the result of a year long process overseen by the Department of Parks and Recreation, with the help of PennPRAXIS, aimed at collecting public input to inform design upgrades. Four meetings were held this past summer in the neighborhoods surrounding and connected to the Parkway: Fairmount, Logan Square, Brewerytown and Francisville. The project will connect past improvements, like streetscaping (although those parking spots are terribly in the way), renovations at the Rodin Museum, and the opening of the Barnes Foundation (which was enabled by breaking a dead man’s will — well, at least we’re closer to Matisse now).