Spring Garden Street public planning session Thursday night

A proposed plan to bring more trees, more light, and more life to Spring Garden Street in Northern Liberties will be unveiled at a public meeting Thursday night.

The Northern Liberties Neighbors Association hired DIGSAU Architects to draw up a master plan for that neighborhood’s piece of Spring Garden, from 2nd Street, down beneath the El overpass, and on to Delaware Avenue.

Through a combination of grants and partnerships with other entities, NLNA has about $210,000 to create the Spring Garden Greenway, not including some in-kind donations.

This project is “incredibly important” to Northern Liberties because the area is the “unofficial gateway” to the neighborhood, NLNA President Matt Ruben said.  “There’s a mass transit hub with the subway and buses, and this one spot connects mass transit to the neighborhood, mass transit to the riverfront, and the neighborhood to the riverfront,” he said. “There’s no other site like it in the neighborhood, and not a whole lot of other sites like it any neighborhood.”

DIGSAU Architects gathered community input through meetings and on-line. Ruben said simply ambushing people as they got off the subway was also productive. “Once they know we were not selling something, they were very willing to talk, and had great ideas,” Ruben said.

High on the amassed list: Improving the lighting around the subway stop. “It was the number one issue given by at least half of the people, and almost everyone mentioned it,” Ruben said.

Ruben says the plan will make that area look better, feel safer, and be more useable.

One of NLNA’s partners is the Mural Arts Program, which received a $50,000 grant from PennDOT to create something beneath the overpass. This won’t be a traditional mural, Ruben said. It couldn’t be – the water issues under there would make paint peel off. “We’re looking for something abstract – ceramics, metal panels, things that will work in concert with the lighting.”

Improvements for Madison Memorial Park – otherwise known as Dough Boy Park – will also be discussed Thursday.  This little space is on the northeast corner of 2nd Street. The park is surrounded by very wide sidewalks, Ruben said. Just making them smaller would create a larger, more useable space.

Investigations are underway to see if the plan can include giving the Dough Boy Park a companion patch of green across the street, on the southeast corner, Ruben said. This plot, owned by PennDOT, is now fenced in, unused space, he said.

Some trees could be planted there, and also along Spring Garden and some of its side streets, through a $30,000 grant from another partner, the Morris Arboretum, which is also donating $500 worth of staff time to the project, Ruben said.  New street furniture will provide a place to sit and enjoy the new trees.

DIGSAU’s Jeff Goldstein said he’s been working closely with the city’s water department to make sure the streetscape work will mesh with their program to reduce storm water runoff.

NLNA has also received $100,000 from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission through its Take Me To The River program.

Spring Garden ends at Delaware Avenue, at the Festival Pier and incinerator site. “Right now, that land is a parking lot, the opposite of the highest and best use,” Ruben said.

NLNA is hoping to make this statement to the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, which oversees the use of that public land, Ruben said. “We have a Take Me to the River Grant,” he said. “We’re taking people to the river. Now, put something there that’s worth going to.”

Goldstein said Thursday’s presentation, 7 p.m. at the NLNA’s office, 700 N. 3rd Street, will include three tiers of master planning.

The first tier projects are definite – money is already in hand via NLNA, Mural Arts or the Morris Arboretum.  The second tier items, Goldstein said, are “the natural next steps” for the near future, if any of those groups could find additional funding.

The third tier plans would take place in the future. Not only would additional money be needed, Goldstein said, but approvals and cooperation from other agencies would also be required.

Ruben said some greenery may be planted next month, with most being done next spring.  The work at Doughboy Park, the lighting and artwork under the overpass, and the street furniture should all be in place by October 2010, he said. “Beyond that is a question mark.”

Posted by Kellie Patrick Gates

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