Back in the dark ages (2011), the area now known as The Porch at 30th Street Station was 34 parallel parking spaces. It was a chance for Philadelphia’s finest drivers to display their parking prowess. Now, the half-acre strip of land located along the Market Street side of the nation’s third busiest train station has been repurposed into a public space that can turn a lunch hour into a beer garden, a street performance, or a WXPN event.

The Porch. Image from UCD.

According to data collected at The Porch in 2012, the site features 250 places to sit and 68 planters. There were 78 planned concert performances, and 1,224 seemingly impromptu performances via the Heart and Soul campaign that put painted pianos around University City for anyone to play. Sixteen hundred rounds of mini golf were enjoyed. More than 13,000 al fresco lunches were served.

This year’s programming at The Porch begins April 1st. But a more official and festive event occurs April 3rd. That day will feature gourmet food trucks, street performer and a new weekly event XPN’s Philly Local Wednesdays at The Porch, an event curated by Helen Leicht.

From last summer. Nomad Pizza and mini-golf

Programming scheduled last year at The Porch reflected an experimental phase, according to Lori Brennan, director of marketing and communications at the University City District, the organization which developed The Porch.

“We really didn’t know what kind of activities or events people would be interested in and what actually worked with the space,” said Brennan. Year two marks phase two of that experimentation, a phase that has been informed by past experience. While this year means a return of successful projects like the beer garden, which will happen monthly between April and June instead of only once, and the pop-up lunch spots, the folks at UCD are “keeping it open” to “try new things.”

Another view of the Porch. Image from UCD.

This year’s budget is $82,000, which is the same as last year, according to Brennan. The Porch, fabricated with $275K and improved over time in phases, represents a physical and social investment that has produced palpable results. Last year it contributed to the raising of more than $1M in private dollars. Six hundred and thirty-seven commuters were intercepted daily. And with plans on the desk to begin discussions for The Porch 2.0 in the next year, more innovative plans can be expected.

–Lou Mancinelli