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East Passyunk gateway project set to break ground tomorrow, with updated renderings

A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for tomorrow night on the gateway project at East Passyunk, Broad and McKean, which was announced with much fanfare in January 2014.

This is the flashiest of four lighting options under consideration. Renderings provided by PARC.

This is the flashiest of four lighting options under consideration. Renderings provided by PARC.

The sparse plaza will be torn up to turn that little wedge into more-usable “flex” space, complete with what is becoming a common refrain for avenue projects: seating, better lighting and improved landscaping.

Construction had been slated to begin last May, after a $500,ooo grant from the William Penn Foundation was released. But Sam Sherman of the Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corporation, which is spearheading the project, said bids for construction kept coming in too high, delaying the start.

That means they decided to remove plans for a fountain that was part of the original proposal.

“It was just blowing up the budget,” Sherman said. “That was one of the big things that delayed it. I kept putting it out to bid, and every time I put it out, it kept going up. Even the lowest bid, it just wan’t practical.”

A more muted lighting option.

A more muted lighting option. Two other renderings show no color on the pavilion.

Another noticeable change is the lack of a docking station for the city’s new bike share program, Indigo. Sherman said that midway through the planning process, the city increased the dimensions required to host a station, meaning that there wouldn’t be enough room.

Now, they have relocated the pavilion, putting it in the center of the plaza rather than off to the side, and plan to flood the intersection with lighting, including on the wall of the Citizens Bank across McKean.

“We have a couple different schemes,” he said. “The pavilion’s going to be really nice, and lit it really unusual way. We’re looking at undulating colors, so there will be movement there. No fountain but the lights will sort of mimic the movement of water. And there will still be benches, there’ll still be tables.”

They hope to complete the project by June, around the same time the Mifflin Street triangle a block up is supposed to be finished with, you guessed it, more seating, better lighting and improved landscaping.

Here’s a look at the old plans:

Renderings by Studio Bryan Hanes

Old renderings by Studio Bryan Hanes

Renderings by Studio Bryan Hanes

Old renderings by Studio Bryan Hanes

Broad and Passyunk rendering 2

Sherman noted that by the end of this summer, PARC will have invested $6.2 million in real estate development and public space improvements in the immediate neighborhood since the organization’s inception in 2011. 

So, what do you think of the design changes?

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47 Responses to East Passyunk gateway project set to break ground tomorrow, with updated renderings

  1. Philly Ray April 14, 2015 at 9:07 am #

    East Passyunk, Broad and *McKean*

    • Albert Stumm April 14, 2015 at 10:20 am #

      Whoops, duh. Thanks!

    • Ken April 15, 2015 at 8:57 am #

      No matter what the final design is does not matter if there is not commitment to long term maintanence. Sadly there probably is not.

  2. Anthony April 14, 2015 at 10:45 am #

    I’m sure the new plans will be great and I’m excited for them, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little disappointed the old ones didn’t work out as they were just awesome. Regardless, will be interesting to see how this works out so close to Boad and Snyder

    • nahmean April 14, 2015 at 11:16 am #

      Agreed — there was straight-up dancing in the original plans!

      Now there’s just strolling, which is nice and all, but where are we gonna shake a leg in the new plan?

  3. squishimichi April 14, 2015 at 11:04 am #

    The new renderings are doing nothing for me. Bring back the bike share station, that makes more sense than this.

    • David G April 14, 2015 at 11:42 am #

      “Sherman said that midway through the planning process, the city increased the dimensions required to host a station, meaning that there wouldn’t be enough room.”

  4. K April 14, 2015 at 11:07 am #

    Just keep it clean. Am I missing something that welcomes them to East Passyunk?
    It’s going to look cool at night. But what ab during the day. Seems like a lot of cement which will make it look very bland.

  5. Ian April 14, 2015 at 11:33 am #

    One detail I do miss is the hanging string lights. (I miss them at the fountain too!) Its such a south philly thing it would make a nice entrance to the neighborhood.

    • Rob April 14, 2015 at 1:51 pm #


    • ProvWitout April 14, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

      Agreed. Those handing string lights would really be cool.

      • ProvWitout April 14, 2015 at 5:32 pm #


    • Jillian April 18, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

      I agree too. That’s such a simple and inexpensive addition that would pack a big punch.

  6. stupidtank April 14, 2015 at 11:39 am #

    The old was better. except for that jagghole in the mandals with the saxophone. He could’ve been left out of the renderings.

  7. --smw April 14, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    “The pavilion’s going to be really nice, and lit it really unusual way. We’re looking at undulating colors,”

    STOP. Please no. The undulating color thing is tacky and played-out, reduces the “flexibility” of the space, and is probably incredibly overpriced besides. Reconfigure the design to be useful for the actual human residents of the neighborhood, not just renderings of humans. That’s the point of good urban design.

    • KM April 14, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

      They aren’t doing it for the neighbors. It’s for all the visitors to the avenue that spend money and take our parking. :) Most everything on this avenue is way overpriced anymore for me or my family to afford.

      • ProvWitout April 14, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

        Yes KM! Build a parking garage, then we can talk about more restaurants.

        • ProvWitout April 14, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

          Ahh… More fake ProvWitout posts… awesome…

  8. Joey Gavone April 14, 2015 at 11:53 am #

    Hopefully this will get the bank to finally fix their noisy, broken sign

  9. Gerry April 14, 2015 at 11:57 am #

    No offense, but this looks awful. Please go back to the drawing board…

  10. Jay Short April 14, 2015 at 12:08 pm #

    The plans have stripped out anything that will get people to use the space – no fountain, no bike share and less flexibility. In an attempt to save money, more money is being wasted because the space will not generate the use expected. It will be a boring space with some walls and a weird pillion in the middle, located at a busy intersection. Totally unusable. This space needs/deserves more.

    • squishimichi April 14, 2015 at 3:29 pm #


    • don't like it April 15, 2015 at 8:52 am #

      Agreed. And who will crowd under the pavilion all the darn day? I prefer the original plan without the fountain.

    • Devin April 15, 2015 at 9:03 am #

      That was my feeling as well, the earlier designs make it clear as to what will draw people to the space, this design is too focused on looking impressive from afar but sacrifices the amenities and design that will make the gateway usable.

  11. shawn19148 April 14, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

    How about having a left turn lane off of Broad st.

    • ProvWitout April 14, 2015 at 5:37 pm #

      Thats interesting Shawn… A lot of people would love to turn left at either Snyder or McKean/Passyunk…

      • acer April 15, 2015 at 2:01 pm #

        this is a terrible idea.

  12. Jay April 14, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    I would be *very* interested to see the budget for this project. $500k is a lot for a one-off improvement that adds a couple of lights and little to no green space.

  13. Jeff April 14, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

    PARC has done projects up and down the Avenue, many of them good and with great benefit to the neighborhood. This was one plan in which they actually incorporated something for kids – the fountain. Unfortunately that element is now gone, another example of the neighborhood’s lack of interest in providing amenities to families. It seems likely that the plaza will be used by only the drunks and junkies that hang at Broad and Snyder. It’s a shame.

    • ProvWitout April 14, 2015 at 5:38 pm #

      The slop they put in on Passyunk at the 16th Street corner is a serious drag… Dirt Island…

  14. Phillydave April 14, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    A few comments about the new design:

    • Too much concrete. Every successful new park space in Philly recently softens a hardscape (i.e. Sister Cities). There is little softening in that design.

    • The large ground level planting space is just inviting the whirlpool of trash flying around South Philly every day to take of residence.

    • The plaza really needs a 24 hour focal point such as a small fountain to build seating around. Nothing to elaborate to have to upkeep like the present fountain up the avenue, but something tall and simple and easy and reasonable to maintain to catch the eye from Broad St. A gateway should look like a gateway.

    • A singular theme could be developed for the length of the Avenue (i.e. small Italian piazzas) for continuity. Utilize the same benches, planters, etc . to create a similar look up and down the commercial corridor. For example, lampposts in front of Le Virtu could be continued along the Avenue.

  15. Jay April 14, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    I agree about the singular theme. Some tasteful lamp lighting would be a whole lot better than what’s in the mock up, which steers the neighborhood even farther towards a knock-off Atlantic City. The development of the Avenue up until recent months has always been nicely understated and sustainable – recent additions are taking it in a direction that is quite the opposite.

  16. zreese April 14, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    What a shame. It went from really interesting to completely unnecessary. This corner was always kind of questionable, I think this design is just going to make it even more so.

  17. spf5000 April 14, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    A large sculpture would be fitting to go with the birds in the fountain and Joey G. This design lacks a focal point. I don’t buy the ‘not enough space for a bike share station.’ There’s virtually nothing in this design. Does PARC solicit community input or are they masters of our domain?

    • ProvWitout April 14, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

      Why not put a bike share on South Philly High’s pavement area or even in the lot itself…?

  18. newboldie April 14, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    This design makes that ugly bank the focal point. It’s just dumb urban landscaping for the bank.

  19. Derek April 14, 2015 at 2:55 pm #

    I am laughing at the different fake people in the mockups. Before you had people doing the samba and kids playing in a fountain, now you have two people shuffling off for quicky by the dumpster on Watts street while a solitary figure contemplates suicide in gathering darkness

  20. Aaron B April 14, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

    There are so many things wrong with this plan, holy crap.
    The biggest reason is that there is absolutely no reason anyone will ever go to this stranded little peninsula. It’s surrounded by 3 banks, one of which has a drive-through and parking lot. What is this, Cheltenham? Does this plan include the takeover of said drive-through?
    The intersection is not at pedestrian scale.
    The singing fountain works because of its scale. It’s surrounded by pedestrian friendly businesses – ton of them – and protected by parked cars. The traffic that goes through is very slow.
    Contrast with lack of any parking buffer, a ridiculously complicated and Broad intersection, and zero destinations within a stone’s throw. The walk signals to get across Broad are basically a double-dog-dare, so West Passyunk doesn’t get connected at all.

    This money should have been spent on the Passyunk-12th-Morris intersection. That spot at least stands a chance.

    This one is dead dead dead.

    • Derek April 14, 2015 at 3:19 pm #

      I agree with that. Even if it was the original plan with the fountain, this area is just to weird and cut off. Until some more businesses push in closer that add more to the nightlife or daylife right around there (Palladino’s may be a start, I guess) its still going to be a weird no man’s land with cars tearing by seemingly out of nowhere.

    • Paul April 18, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

      Completely agreed. The bike share made at least some sense. But this? Not so much.

  21. Anti PARC April 14, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    It’s gonna be nice. But don’t get it twisted. PARC screws it’s tennants any chance they get. They are only out to make $ not improve passyunk.

  22. Dan Demmy April 14, 2015 at 4:55 pm #

    Why do we need all this crap ? It’s all surface . It’s all show . And for the “new South Philly ” what was wrong with old South Philly , i loved my “old south philly ” taxes and cost of living .

    • Derek April 15, 2015 at 10:13 am #

      How is a desolate patch of concrete currently used a place to throw litter representative of the “Old South Philly”? Don’t answer that.

    • acer April 15, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

      The old South Philly was letting Passyunk Avenue rot and die with stagnant, old world businesses that are no longer needed and crumbling, ugly facades. Much better than it is today.

      Just move to NJ and live the old South Philly lifer dream.

      • ProvWitout April 16, 2015 at 9:55 pm #

        Umm.. If you’re telling people to move to jersey… Why would you think something like these pavement “improvements” like the dirt island that causes a straight outta jersey jug-handle to occur at Snyder, Passyunk, & 16th are a such a great idea??

  23. Tisha April 14, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

    Did no one want all the parking that was taken a few years ago to be replaced? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to redevelop the area around the Juniper streets?

    • Bob April 16, 2015 at 7:06 am #


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