Four win grants to build pedestrian plazas

No matter how you cut it, the intersection of 48th Street, Florence and Baltimore avenues is strange, with three streets coming together in a five-point intersection.

Prema Gupta, the University City District’s director of planning and economic development, calls it “one of the most treacherous pedestrian crossings in” the neighborhood because pedestrians on the south side run illegally across both Florence and Baltimore when they cross the street.

Thanks to a grant from the city, soon those pedestrians won’t need to scurry so fast.

UCD won a grant from the city to build a bump-out at the intersection to allow for safer crossing as part of the new pedestrian plaza program.

The program aims to take excess car space and re-purpose it for pedestrian use.

Gupta wants to use the new sidewalks space for things like chairs.

The project along Baltimore Avenue is one four initial projects being funded under the program, which provides $30,000 worth of funding.

UCD won an additional grant under the program to repurpose an existing traffic triangle and part of the adjoining street at the intersection of 42nd Street and Woodland Avenue. Details are still being worked out, but Gupta says that planters may be put in the space, and logs from fallen trees in the nearby Woodlands Cemetery may be fashioned into seats.

Additional grants were issued to the South Street Headhouse District to look at the intersection of South Street and Passyunk Avenue and to the Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corp. to create a plaza at Washington Lane and Stenton Avenue.

The South of South Neighborhood Association, which sparked the idea for the program, lost out on a proposal to close a portion of street at the intersection of South Street and Grays Ferry Avenue because of the opposition of neighborhood property owners, according to Andrew Stober, chief of staff at the Mayors Office of Transportation and Utilities, which is running the program for the city.

The pedestrian plaza program comes in the wake of similar moves by UCD and the city to create additional space for pedestrians, including the installation of so-called “parklets” in the neighborhood and the repurposing of a space outside of 30th Street Station into an outdoor area known as the Porch. And the Center City District wants to reconstruct portions of John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Market Street with a cycle track and traffic calming measures.

All four projects should be in place by May.

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