As we’ve been spending more time than usual in Society Hill of late, we’ve been increasingly drawn in by the current state of Foglietta Plaza, which sits immediately east of the Society Hill Towers and immediately west of the ever-popular Spruce Street Harbor Park as it straddles I-95. Currently an odd mix of mature trees, military memorials and more brick than you can fathom, this plaza is a bit of a no-man’s land and could obviously benefit from an upgrade.
There have been efforts in the past to reimagine this plaza, with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation bringing on OLIN in 2017. From that effort, plans emerged to revive the area as a public art space, with the Association for Public Art suggesting the plaza be the new location for the International Sculpture Garden. This collection of sculptures from around the world was originally installed at Penn’s Landing for the Bicentennial celebration back in 1976 but has been in storage since. Those plans stalled out for better or for worse, but they did provide a good idea of what could be possible here.
But lo and behold, it appears all is not lost for a Foglietta refresh. OLIN is once again back in the mix, but this time the charge is being led by the Society Hill Civic Association. It was a “back to the drawing board” situation, with the past plans being scrapped for a more pragmatic approach, as the capped portion of the plaza will be reconstructed sometime in the next 20 years or so according to PennDOT.
For now, a scaled back approach is being offered – one that is big enough to be worthwhile in the short-term while not going overboard, given the expected time limits. A meeting back in January provided insight into the plans, showing a refreshed plaza that would serve as a quiet, contemplative area, as opposed to the more activated parks close by. You can watch the full video of the meeting below, or you can let us do the dirty work as you check out the three concepts offered below.
So why are we bringing this up now in November when this was taking place all those months ago? Well, we are happy to report that the SHCA has been fundraising since then and has now raised enough to begin the design phase of the project. Does this mean that we’ll see huge differences overnight? Probably not, as the numerous stakeholders and the high price tag for even basic improvements would require creative funding from a number of state, local, and organizational sources. We hope this happens sooner than later, however, as this park would be a fantastic complement to the slow-going Park at Penn’s Landing. Foglietta Plaza is about one-third the size of the soon-to-be park along the river, so any sort of upgrade here would have a huge impact for the entire central riverfront.