The Oval is Making a Comeback

At the Art Museum end of The Parkway, a parking lot in the middle of Eakins Oval once represented a missed opportunity in a wonderful location. Last summer though, the Parks and Recreation department transformed and animated that parking lot into a public park complete with games, food trucks and events.

Site plan from last year's edition of the Oval

This summer, a second round of transformation will again turn the parking lot into The Oval. The Oval 2.0 jumped off last month with the opening event for Philly Tech Week where people were able to play Tetris on the Cira Center. It picked up a few weeks later with the Farm Festival. Later this month, PHAIR, the open air artisan market that usually takes place in HeadHouse Square each Saturday, will make a special appearance at the Oval. Events will continue throughout the summer, with a full slate described here on the calendar.

View of the Oval, Art Museum next door

Another look at the Oval, with cars on a weekday

So instead of paying to park at Eakins Oval this summer, you'll be able to pay for some new crafty items or a quality food truck sandwich. It's like Parks and Rec. took some hints from the folks at the University City District, who transformed a block of sidewalk and some former parking spots in front of 30th Street Station into The Porch, the city's most visible adaptive reuse of public space. From its inception a few years ago, The Porch was built and improved in phases as more funding became available. It's hosted XPN Free at Noons, yoga classes, mini-golf and a beer-garden. And there's food trucks almost every day.

Perhaps then The Oval will grow into Philly's next permanent adaptive reuse of a civic space. It could complement Franklin Paine skatepark a few blocks away and it would transform the Parkway into a more interactive and vibrant corridor. If you've driven around The Oval when it was a summer park, you could really see the difference of how a simple idea creates a big impact. And if it becomes permanent, maybe they'll be able to find some ways to create shade on the site, which would only make it better.