Through nearly two years of construction, Philadelphians have watched Penn Park take shape from above. Now that the fields are watered, trees well-tended, bridges built, paths complete, we’re all invited to explore the new park. Penn Park officially opened last night with a picnic and fireworks, and Penn is hosting a Field Day at its new park on Saturday from 4-6pm.
Yes, Penn Park is primarily an athletic facility, but Penn seized the opportunity presented by converting the Postal Lands to create a much more attractive, active eastern edge for the University. Playing fields and paths have sprouted from what was an unattractive sea of concrete, wedged between SEPTA’s and Amtrak’s rail lines, and the Walnut Street and South Street bridges.
It remains to be see how or how much the public will use Penn Park or incorporate the public space into its day. Will people cut through it on the way home from work? Or lounge under the elevated railroad tracks along Highline Green? Time will tell. For now, it is safe to say that Penn’s gift to the city is a softer edge, and a greener gateway between the South Street and Walnut Street bridges that has already made those crossings more pleasurable. With one exception: The parking lot along Walnut Street near the Class of 1923 Arena, is being held for future development, and after a new building is constructed on that site the experience of walking on Walnut Street will feel less barren. For now, we’ll have to live with a pot lot on this prime spot.
I had worried that being down in the park would feel being in the bottom of a huge bowl, but it doesn’t, in part because the park is vast and the Schuylkill River and Expressway are at the same elevation. Although Penn Park is an athletic facility, it feels more interesting than that. The bridges and walkways leading to and within the park add texture and dimension to the landscape that are satisfying to move through. Plus, the views of Center City are as good as advertised.
If you want a fun walk down memory lane, check out this time lapse video of Penn Park’s Construction, courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania Facilities & Real Estate Services.
Penn Park is now open from 6am to midnight daily. If you head down to Penn Park, snap some photos and share them with EOTS in our Flickr Pool.
Penn Park Vital Stats:
- Budget: $46.5 million
- Designer: Michael Van Valkenburgh & Associates
- Acres: 24
- Foot bridges: 3
- Athletic facilities: tennis center, playing fields, softball stadium
- Passive recreation areas: 3
- Sustainability features: underground cisterns to capture millions of gallons of stormwater annually; energy-conserving lighting system:
See PlanPhilly’s previous Penn Park coverage:
- Penn Park Is An “Oasis” In West Philadelphia [7.11.11]
- Penn Park Update [10.1.10]
- University of Pennsylvania Moves Forward With 24-Acre Penn Park; Groundbreaking Scheduled for Nov. 6 [11.2.09]
- Penn Park Progress [9.16.09]
- Architect Reveals Penn Park [2.27.09]
- Weave Bridge Video [12.30.2008]