Philadelphia's New Plaza Serves as Welcome Mat to the City

Located adjacent to the nation's 3rd busiest train station, Philly's new multi-use plaza - dubbed The Porch - provides a welcoming entryway to the city and a model for a "lighter, quicker, cheaper" approach to urban improvements.
August 10, 2012, 10am PDT | Andrew Gorden
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Switchboard's Kaid Benfield reports on the surprising transformation taking place adjacent to Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. With a limited budget, a space once reserved for parking has been transformed into a new, lively urban plaza. "It is ambitious because, in its statement when The Porch opened," says Benfield, "[University City District (UCD)] said that it 'sees this new space as Philadelphia's front porch, a welcoming entryway to the city, as well as a place to linger and socialize, and to entertain and be entertained. The Porch serves to balance the indoor grandeur of 30th Street Station with the wonder and expanse of Philadelphia.'"

Indeed, the space has been popular, with locals and visitors frequenting the site, sometimes coming back multiple times daily for a round of miniature golf. "The space is adjacent to the country's third busiest train station and within easy walking distance of over 16,000 jobs," notes Benfield. "UCD's executive director, Matt Bergheiser, says that 1,800 pedestrians on average stroll along the sidewalk every hour on weekdays."

According to Benfield, a key to the success of 'The Porch' is it's "lighter, quicker, cheaper" focus. Instead of investing in large capital expenses, cities like Philadelphia are finding they can do just as much, if not more, with less. For example, "the site's planters are recycled and refurbished troughs formerly used to feed livestock," says Benfield.

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Published on Thursday, August 9, 2012 in Switchboard
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