Thus far in 2012, the folks at the University City District (UCD) have launched a string of innovative programs. There are initiatives aimed at rehabbing abandoned homes, a program to make trouble spots in the neightborhood brighter, and an effort to improve its aesthetic landscape.

Now, on behalf of the Science Center, the International House, the National Board of Medical Examiners, and University Lutheran, the UCD has asked architects Studio Bryan Hanes to explore the possibilities of redesigning the 37th Street Pedestrian Mall between Upenn and the University City Science Center.

The mall today

Room for improvement

“We think there’s an opportunity to see what that walkway could be,” said Prema Gupta, UCD director of planning and economic development. “This idea is a way to start that conversation.”

They’ll base some of their ideas on pedestrian malls that exist in places like Charlottesville, Va. Boulder, Co. and Burlington, Vermont. 37th Street is already closed to motorist traffic, but this new initiative seeks to revitalize the area with new landscaping, walkways, an interactive water feature, and possibly a restaurant or cafe. The area to the south already has a pristine aesthetic, thanks to University of Pennsylvania.

Locust Walk is just a couple of blocks to the south

Improvements could transform the mall into a world-class, or at least a nationwide cutting-edge thoroughfare. “It’s really to kinda put similar life on the street,” said landscape architect Bryan Hanes about modeling the mall after the vibrant locations in the aforementioned cities. Hanes explained the concept is still in initial stages. “We’re looking for ways to attract people,” he said.

This is an excellent example of collaboration between civic groups, religious groups, a university, doctors, scientists, and multicultural artists. We’ll be interested to see how these different groups can come together in support of this cause, which will affect the physical and intellectual character of their neighborhood.

–Lou Mancinelli