Construction Underway at 40th Street Trolley Portal Gardens

When you consider that the trolley portal at 40th & Baltimore is the busiest at-grade rail station in town, its awful condition in recent memory becomes especially egregious. But the fact that it’s historically been a concrete wasteland will make its transformation into the 40th Street Trolley Portal Gardens all the more sweet. To refresh your memory, University City District has had this space on their radar since back in 2012, when they started holding public meetings on how neighbors wished to see the space reimagined, and began raising money to accomplish those goals.

Over time, they put together a little over $2M to make the space much more welcoming, a project that will include new landscaping, better lighting, and improved stormwater management. The keystone to the project will be a new restaurant called Trolley Car Station, a 150 seat restaurant with a liquor license that will be operated by the owners of the Trolley Car Diner in Mount Airy. No doubt, Penn students and commuters alike will get great enjoyment out of this new business.

We last checked in on this project several months ago, noting that it had just gotten zoning permits. We also shared some renderings of the project, produced by Andropogon Associates. Take a look at ’em, in case you’ve forgotten how cool this thing is gonna look:

Portal rendering
Another view
Rendering of the Trolley Car Station
Project site plan

At that time, we were confident that the project would finally move forward with some urgency, and we’re happy to spread the word that work officially started moving forward in the last month or so. We passed by the other day to see the job site in action, and we can confirm that things are indeed progressing.

Current view
Sign on the site

According to West Philly Local, the project will take about ten months to complete. For the 5,000 people that embark or disembark at this station, and the 60K people that pass through on a daily basis, the station will continue to be open to pedestrians and the trains should operate on a normal schedule. We do have a funny feeling that once the portal renovation is done, ridership numbers will rise by a tick or two. This certainly sounds like a win for UCD, Septa, the neighborhood, and the environment.