| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter RSS Feed

Development News

Friends of 40th St. weigh pocket parks, increasing population density and SEPTA station upgrades

Many Philadelphians would say that University City is one of the hottest sections of the city for development. In fact, it seems like both the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University have grand plans to further development in their pockets of the city. With this in mind, Penn Praxis, the University City District, and Sustainable Communities Initiative- West have teamed up with other community, university, and business interests to form the Friends of 40th St. The Friends held their final public meeting last week to brainstorm ways to enhance the 40th St. corridor between Baltimore and Lancaster Aves.

Harris Steinberg, the executive director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Praxis did much of the talking at the public input meeting. Steinberg makes it clear that transportation is one of the biggest slices of the Friends goals. This includes “thinking of our transit portals as important markers,” says Steinberg. 40th St. is an important transit stretch, as it includes the Southwest Philadelphia trolley portal at Baltimore Ave., the 40th St. Market-Frankford Line Station at Market St, and connections with heavily-traveled cross-town bus routes.

One transit issue that stuck a nerve with the crowd was making the station at 40th and Market Sts. handicapped accessible. Even though neighboring El stations have elevators, 40th St. Station does not, despite being feet away from senior housing. Steinberg confirmed that “universal accessibility for all users” is a big area of study for the Friends.

Yet, some members of the audience didn’t feel like the Friends were pushing hard enough for elevators, as question after question emerged about the accessibility of the station. Finally, a representative of Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s office spoke up and promised the councilwoman would convene a meeting between SEPTA and neighbors about constructing elevators at 40th St Station.

It’s important to note that transportation isn’t the only aspect the Friends of 40th St. are concentrating on. Steinberg showed a picture of the pocket park around 17th and Chestnut Sts. as an example of how parks could make the street a more appealing corridor. Two other elements that are being examined are preservation/development and density. Specifically, the Friends are researching whether 40th St. can support greater density to create a more vibrant urban environment.

The idea of greater density made some in the audience uncomfortable. Long-time residents griped about a lack of parking and other quality-of-life issues caused by an increase in student population. They also raised their hands to complain about what they saw as local institutions having too much control over development. Steinberg, poised as ever, responds “as new development happens, quality of the built environment would improve the quality of your life.” That sums up what the Friends of 40th St. are trying to do, which is improve the quality of life of everyone who lives, works, shops, or attends classes along the 40th St. corridor.           

Source: Harris Steinberg, PennPraxis
Writer: Andy Sharpe
Signup for Email Alerts
Signup for Email Alerts