Parkway Progressions

Map Credit: Map tiles by Stamen Design, under CC BY 3.0. Data by OpenStreetMap, under CC BY SA.

May is a big month for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, as two highly anticipated projects go public: The art world’s eyes are on Philadelphia as the Barnes opens its doors and the city will cut the ribbon at Sister Cities Park. Overall it has been a big year for the Parkway, and Eyes on the Street has been watching.

Judging by all of the recent construction along the Parkway, you’d think there was a building boom going on in Philadelphia. Tens of millions of dollars have been poured onto this 1 mile stretch of the city. For the public work – including Sister Cities Park, the Rodin Museum’s landscape, street and streetscape improvements – the price tag hovers around $19 million. The Barnes clocks in at about $150 million.

Starting this week, I’m taking a leisurely stroll down the Parkway to explore what all of this work looks like. Along the way, we’ll look at the new Barnes, renewal and conservation at the Rodin Museum, streetscape and roadway improvements, and new life at Sister Cities Park.

This extraordinary combination of public and institutional investment brings to life years of planning that is geared at making the Parkway a more vibrant, complete urban space that attracts more people.

The Parkway was conceived as a grand boulevard connecting the city’s core civic and art institutions, gracefully grafting Fairmount Park into the heart of the city. But the Parkway’s age-old problem has been its institutional-scale and historical auto-centricity, which serve as a one-two punch to lively urbanity.

In the last decade, planning efforts led by the City and the Center City District have worked with Parkway institutions to improve the Parkway experience by adding texture and activities that break up the monotonous landscape.

Paul Levy, President of the Center City District, casts this age-old tension of the Parkway this way: Is it a place or a pathway. That is, is the Parkway a place to move through or a destination in and of itself?

So throughout the month of May, Eyes on the Street will spend some time walking the Parkway – the place and the pathway – checking in on the recent projects big and small with an eye to the past and the future. Come on along.


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