• Learn about the conditions that led to Frank Furness' most incredible masterworks, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts seen here, on Wednesday.
      Learn about the conditions that led to Frank Furness' most incredible masterworks, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts seen here, on Wednesday.

Pedestrian Plaza Program to Turn Underused Road into Public Space

  • A plaza in the making? Passyunk Avenue at South Street.


Some blocks are better for people than cars.

The Mayor's Office of Transportation & Utilities (MOTU) wants to help community groups turn underutilized street segments into lively pedestrian plazas, and put out a call for plaza proposals this summer. The goal is to enliven streets, provide public amenities, and promote flexible uses by removing auto traffic from places where it is already rare. Instead of cars, expect to see fixtures like bike racks, benches, planters, and tables with chairs.

Community groups were invited to propose a site, conceptual design, possible uses, and furniture options. In order to be considered, groups also have to be prepared to maintain the space after it is built and be able to demonstrate community support for the project.

As PlanPhilly reported in August, Andrew Stober, chief of staff at MOTU, said the city wants to help community groups transform areas where there are  “angles in the street grid that have created unused space.” Just think of all of the diagonal streets that cut through the grid – Passyunk, Gray’s Ferry, Moyamensing, Lancaster, Germantown, Ridge – creating strange intersections that add interest to our cityscape, but not necessarily function.

The South of South Neighborhood Association is interested in different creating plazas at three neighborhood triangles created by Grays Ferry, including the one at South Street. Their long-standing interest in creating plazas is credited as one of the program's inspirations. Further east, the South Street Headhouse District (SSHD) is proposing a plaza for the section of Passyunk just below South Street. There is already a farmer’s market along this block, which works well, and SSHD also hopes the plaza could feature special events.

Proposals are due Monday and sites will be selected soon. The goal is to open a new crop of pedestrian plazas next year.

Do you have a block in your neighborhood that would make a great plaza? Know of other proposals being floated for pedestrian plaza locations? Comment below.

About the author

Ashley Hahn, Contributor

Ashley Hahn is an independent writer with a background in historic preservation and city planning. She started Eyes on the Street for PlanPhilly in 2011 and was PlanPhilly's managing editor from 2015-2017. Ashley has lived in 12 zip codes that she can think of, including neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and New York. She is a Philadelphian by choice.

Contact Ashley via email or find her on twitter: @ashleyjhahn.


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