Philadelphia is experiencing expansive population growth, an influx of economic opportunity, and a renewed interest in city living. The 30th Street Station District stands at the confluence of these energies, primed to become Philadelphia’s next great neighborhood: a place to live, work, learn and play near one of the nation’s busiest and most important transportation hubs and access to one-of-a-kind urban and natural amenities. An intensive, two-year planning process brought five principal partners together with elected officials, institutional stakeholders, transportation passengers, and local citizens. The plan prioritizes the public realm, strengthening existing neighborhoods and anchoring new neighborhood development with public spaces that provide amenities for residents, workers, and visitors. The result: a world-class, highly-integrated 30th Street Station anchoring a dynamic, connected, and inviting neighborhood, an incredible gateway for Philadelphia, and a center for new economic growth and opportunity.
The 30th Street Station District’s public space network serves three core functions. First, it provides places to relax, exercise, socialize, and play. Second, it provides physical, visual, and perceptual connections between the district and the rest of the city. Third, the public space network serves as ecological infrastructure: trees shade buildings and streets, soil absorbs stormwater runoff, and topography and plants filter noise and air pollution from adjacent infrastructure. Overall, the plan features nearly 40 acres of parks and civic space and five miles of new and improved greenways, connecting back into the city’s rich greenway system and Fairmount Park.
The signature public space in the district and the first project slated for implementation is Station Plaza, a diversely programmed, central civic destination wrapped around the perimeter of 30th Street Station. Station Plaza is envisioned as a multifunctional space, seamlessly integrating everyday passenger access needs with opportunities for social interaction and recreation. The plaza will also link to a two-level riverfront promenade. To the north of the station, connecting to the riverfront promenade, the plan proposes an expansive park—the Schuylkill Bluffs—above the Northeast Corridor tracks. It creates a continuous, connected riverfront landscape while negotiating the vertical and structural constraints of the rail yards and highway below. From these larger interventions to small, pocket parks that create a real sense of place or connections down to the riverfront, the plan aims for world-class amenities that can define the essential character of this neighborhood and help propel development.
The overarching objective for the district plan is to offer a coordinated, cohesive vision for development spanning the rail yards. However, the immense span and density of critical rail infrastructure, necessary vertical clearances, and the barrier imposed by I-76 meant that a full cap over the site would be infeasible. Through careful study and analysis, the plan maps out a range of structural typologies and proposes different development strategies over each unique functional area while safeguarding continuous rail operations.
Active and informed public participation is a key element of the district plan. The planning process continually engaged the general public including commuters, residents, businesses, tourists, students, and intercity rail passengers. At each meeting, the public provided comments on the status of the plan and valuable feedback on key issues, from goals and objectives to conceptual alternatives to project phasing. The final plan represents an unprecedented collaboration among the project principals, institutional stakeholders, and these communities neighboring the district.
Over the next 35 years, existing communities will converge with new neighborhoods, creating a district which blends present-day strengths with future opportunities. The future district will be much more than the physical streets, parks, and buildings represented in this plan. Their character will reflect the people who live, work, and play in them and diverse, inclusive communities make for dynamic, exciting communities.
Each project that advances the plan is an opportunity to involve the civic and business communities so that the plan’s future successes can be shared by all. Three years later, its implementation is well underway, including plans for a new pubic plaza immediately adjacent to the station, engineering studies for a high-density vertical development atop a portion of the rail yards, and initial feasibility for the revitalization of Station Plaza.
30th Street Station District Master Plan
Landscape Architect | OLIN
Architect | SOM
Image Credits | Image Credit | Courtesy SOM and Copyright Amtrak