Philadelphia is embarking on a new phase of its long-term plan to redesign the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The goal is to transform the area from Logan Circle to the Philadelphia Museum of Art into a more welcoming space for pedestrians and cyclists.
Philadelphia Parks & Recreation on Tuesday announced the Reimagine the Benjamin Franklin Parkway planning effort, a collaboration between Parks & Rec, the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, & Sustainability, and international design firm Design Workshop.
Philly officials say they want to work with the community to create a “world-class public realm plan” for permanent changes that will improve the iconic parkway in terms of appeal, functionality, and traffic safety. The city characterized the changes it seeks as “people-centric.”
Officials outlined a four-phase plan in which the city will collect public feedback, both in person and digitally, that will eventually inform preferred plans for the parkway. To kick off Phase 1, the city wants to hear from residents about their vision for the parkway’s future.
Matt Radar, president of the Parkway Council, said in a statement that the project represents the next stage in a “decade-long journey to right the balance between ‘park’ and ‘parkway.’”
The parkway has evolved since its inception in the 1870s. Inspired by the Champs-Élysées in Paris, it aimed to improve connections between Center City and a growing Fairmount Park.
In a 2013 study by the University of Pennsylvania’s PennPraxis, researchers noted the parkway became “less an elegant pleasure drive to the park and more an automotive conduit to the city.”
The 1960s redesign of Eakins Oval as a traffic circle, the authors wrote, “tipped the balance in favor of the car over the pedestrian experience.”
Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, in announcing the initiative, said the city wants to hear from both residents and visitors as it makes the parkway a greener space that is more accessible and inclusive.
Those interested in getting involved can take the city’s first parkway survey, which will be open through Aug. 15 and is available in 10 languages.
On Saturday, June 18, the public is invited to participate in an interactive design and planning event at The Oval XP, a pop-up festival situated at the base of the art museum steps. Visitors will be able to weigh in on their preferences for the parkway’s future, touching on transportation, amenities, programming, and attractions.
The design team will also collect public feedback at the Wawa Welcome America concert slated to take place on Monday, July 4. Local ambassadors will similarly gather resident feedback through door-to-door canvassing and community conversations.
The engagement initiative comes in the wake of a drawn-out and often heated process of soliciting public input and weighing plans to narrow Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia, considered one of the city’s most dangerous streets.
A wrench was thrown in that process last week when City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson refused to introduce legislation to make the changes in his district. Safety advocates have since urged the city to press ahead with narrowing the corridor.
WHYY News’ Sophia Schmidt contributed reporting.