Plans are finally underway to remake Philadelphia’s 40th Street Trolley Portal. In conjunction with the city, nonprofit University City District (UDC) will transform the boring, character-free concrete SEPTA trolley terminal, adjacent to the University of Pennsylvania, into a social space for one of Philly’s most vibrant areas.
The terminal serves four busy trolley lines, but provides little in the way of comfort or amusement for passengers. Landscaping, by Philadelphia’s own Andropogon Associates, will lure pollinators with native plants. The beds will be surrounded by seat-walls, an ingredient in William H. Whyte‘s famous formula for the social life of small urban spaces.
UDC has a positive track record around refurbishing heavily used public space. A 2013 streetscape intervention at Baltimore Crossing created bump-outs at three corners to make the busy intersection safer for pedestrians.
Curbed reported that a pedestrian plaza will include tables and chairs shaded by a grove of trees, surrounded by native plants, and flanked by artfully placed boulders. A restaurant with a green roof, art installations, bike parking, improved pedestrian circulation, and cultural programming will round out the redevelopment. Trolley waiting stations will have green roofs, too.
The one acre site presents some challenges. For safety, the landscaping has to be low enough to allow clear sightlines, and trees cannot be too tall, or they risk interference with the trolleys’ catenary wires.
Construction on the 40th Street Trolley Portal will begin in 2016, with an opening set for 2017. UDC states that the project will cost $2.1 million.