The trolley portal at 40th & Baltimore is extremely important, as it marks the spot where four of West Philly's trolley lines converge as they make their way east and split as they make their way west into the neighborhoods. Despite the fact that it serves as such a crucial point for a piece of Philadelphia's mass transit system, it generally looks like crap. It's essentially a concrete wasteland, a pure embodiment of function over form.

Current view of the portal

Another view

To their credit, University City District came to this realization several years ago and they've been raising money to improve the portal ever since. We first covered this effort back in 2012, after one of the first public meetings on the topic. Two years later we provided an update, learning that the two-phase project would instead take place in a single phase at a cost of over $2M. Now, after another two years, we feel more confident than ever that the renovation of the 40th Street Trolley Portal will happen in the near future. According to West Philly Local, the ZBA ruled this week in the support of the needed variances to move forward with the project.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about the renovation of the portal will be the addition of the two-story Trolley Car Station restaurant, which will be operated by the folks who own the Trolley Car Diner in Mount Airy. The restaurant will have seating for 150 and include booze, and we suspect it'll have some fans among the many Penn students that live nearby. There will also be new landscaping, better lighting, improved stormwater management elements, and a generally welcoming space for anyone that uses the portal on a regular basis. Check out the renderings from Andropogon Associates:

Portal rendering

Another view

Trolley Car Station rendering, image from Philly Voice

Portal site plan

Per Philly Voice, construction should get started in the fall and is expected to be completed by the beginning of the 2017 school year. This project has been a long time coming, but looking at the renderings it appears it will be well worth the wait. Way to go, UCD, Septa, and everyone else involved!