September 20: Greenway dreams come to life on Spring Garden

Like Brigadoon, a fleeting vision of the Spring Garden Street Greenway will appear along one block of Spring Garden for one day only. And while the pop-up greenway will last for only one September Saturday, organizers hope the memory will linger on and stoke public support to really build the greenway.

On September 20, community volunteers are building a temporary version of the Spring Garden Street Greenway to showcase the possibilities. The westbound lanes on the 900 block of Spring Garden Street, where the Reading Viaduct passes overhead, will be filled with a block party – with food, drinks, and music – as well as a design demonstration for the future greenway.

The Spring Garden Street Greenway would transform the 2.2 miles of Spring Garden Street, river-to-river, with a protected landscaped bikeway in center of the street’s wide median and add pedestrian amenities like curb bumpouts and improved lighting. The greenway would provide a continuous trail connection between the Schuylkill River Trail and Delaware River Trail segments being built. The project would make Spring Garden Street into Philly’s most complete street – our truest balance between cars, transit, bikes, and pedestrians – and promises to make the streetscape look a whole lot more inviting.

The greenway concept has been floated for more than five years, gaining recent steam through robust public input sessions, conceptual designs by Interface Studios, and a final report [pdf] completed last year by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

Construction costs for the Spring Garden Street Greenway were estimated in last year’s report at $20.3 million, and the project is expected to stimulate about $40 million in economic activity related to its construction. Add to that the longer-term benefits to health, mobility, safety, recreation, connectivity, property values, and quality of life and building the greenway starts to look even more enticing. But until that funding is identified, it’s time to cultivate broader public support and build political momentum.

To help people experience the greenway volunteers have blended ideas from Better Block Project complete street demonstrations and borrowed a few pages from Park(ing) Day (September 19, this year), to create a pop-up street intervention.

“We want people to get out there and feel what the greenway might be like and also what a great corridor and a great block might feel like,” explained Tony Spagnoli, program manager at Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), which is helping advance the greenway plan and support volunteers. 

September 20: 11am-7pm. 900 block of Spring Garden Street
September 20: 11am-7pm. 900 block of Spring Garden Street

The pop-up event aims to showcase what Spring Garden Street has to offer, condensed on one block, and to demonstrate the greenway’s potential benefits to communities along the corridor. 

“We think this is a lynchpin for keeping the conversation going for the Spring Garden Street Greenway,” Spagnoli said.

Dozens of neighborhood residents and business owners have come together to create the pop-up event, with an assist from PEC, and advocating for the Spring Garden Street Greenway itself.

For Tony Montagnaro, one of the community volunteers, the pop-up event is a chance to introduce the idea to neighbors, business owners, and visitors and create an “atmosphere where people can have a conversation about what’s going on with the greenway, why it’s important, and how to support it.”

Montagnaro is a member-owner of the cooperative coffee shop and bar W/N W/N (“Win Win”), which should open on the 900 block of Spring Garden this fall. For him the greenway is also about building a more sustainable neighborhood and enabling strong alternatives to auto-centric city living.

“We’re trying to push toward something that looks better, feels safer, is more fun, inviting, and interactive” for Spring Garden Street, Montagnaro said. For the adjacent neighborhoods, the greenway could eventually be a real magnet for businesses and residents.

For now, if you also you dream a greenway, get thee to Spring Garden Street next Saturday. 

Sign up for a two-hour volunteer shift at the pop-up greenway online.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal