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.
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Philadelphia is getting tantalizingly close to transforming its 40th Street Trolley terminal into an inviting public plaza. Plans to remake the one-acre space have been in the works for about a decade, but things officially got started in 2012 when the University City District (UCD)—a collection of businesses and institutions near the terminal—was awarded a William Penn Foundation planning grant for the project. Now, with some cash from the energy company PECO and the Natural Lands Trust, the UCD is only $600,000 shy of its $2 million goal. And as the project gets closer to reality, the UCD has shared its latest proposed design with AN. The overall goal of the overhaul, explained Prema Gupta, the director of planning and economic development for the UCD, is to "tighten up pedestrian circulation patterns." Right now, she pointed out, the portal is just a giant swath of concrete. A revamp by Andropogon Associates would significantly change that. The Philly-based firm's design transforms the space with new plantings, seating, overhead lighting, and a café. Planners hope that down the road the space could also be used for cultural events. More details on the plan are expected from the UCD in the coming months. [h/t Curbed Philly]