PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia announced today that Design Workshop, an international landscape architecture, planning and urban design firm, will lead a process to re-imagine the design and function of Philadelphia’s iconic Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Working with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, the City’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability, and Parkway stakeholders, the team led by Design Workshop will create a world-class public realm plan for people-centric, permanent changes that will dramatically improve the appeal, use, traffic safety, functionality, and beauty of the Parkway. The design and engagement project will last 12-18 months and will include an in-depth public engagement process, schematic design, a recommended project schedule, and cost estimates.
“The Benjamin Franklin Parkway is Philadelphia’s grand boulevard, a historic cultural epicenter that has the opportunity to become a vibrant, bustling public space for all Philadelphians,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “The team selected to carry out this work is as bold, spectacular, and rooted in local pride as the Parkway itself. I encourage Philadelphians to join in on this journey to reimagine what is possible on the Parkway through the lens of Design Workshop’s talented team of public space experts.”
International reach, local expertise
Design Workshop was selected from 18 renowned design teams following a competitive Request For Proposal (RFP) process led by the City and supported by the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation at Drexel University. The project is made possible by a grant from the William Penn Foundation.
“We are honored to be a part of this iconic project. Drawing on a team that includes local firms who have deep roots in shaping Philadelphia’s public spaces and international partners who will leverage key takeaways from the transformation of the Champs-Elysees to the Tverskaya Street Revitalization project in Moscow. We will collaborate with the people of Philadelphia to co-create an equitable and inclusive future for the Parkway,” said Kurt Culbertson, Principal with Design Workshop.
Design Workshop, which has implemented large scale public space projects in Paris, Moscow, and Houston, stood apart in the following ways:
- An iterative approach: With a vision to build a place for people, Design Workshop offers a realistic, multi-year framework to make improvements over time, creating meaningful connections and enabling Philadelphians to re-engage with the Parkway in different ways.
- Connections between people and places: Design Workshop’s proposal showed a clear understanding of the importance of creating a renewed sense of place on the Parkway and connections between adjacent public spaces.
- Inclusive design: The team outlined an approach to urban design that puts inclusivity and equity at the forefront of the conversation as well as strong previous project and engagement experience that Design Workshop will bring to the Parkway.
Closer to home, members of the consultant team Ground Reconsidered and CH Planning have experience designing new green spaces along the Parkway, like Maja Park, Winter Street Greenway and Dog Run, and the Oval+.
“Today’s Parkway is more welcoming to foot traffic than any time in recent memory,” said Deputy Managing Director for Transportation Mike Carroll. “The opportunity to provide improved pedestrian connections through Eakins Oval to the Art Museum steps is exciting, and an indication of how far we have come in laying the foundation for a public thoroughfare that is as livable as it is iconic, and as welcoming as it is grand.”
Beginning with robust community engagement, the resulting plan for the future revitalization of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway will be based on innovative people-centric design ideas and creative approaches to transportation, economic development, and storm water management along with phased implementation. The engagement and design process will include collaboration with the Parkway Council and other partners to build capacity to fully implement the plan.
“The Parkway Council looks forward to working with the city and Design Workshop team to accelerate the transformation of the Parkway into a great urban park, welcoming to and actively used by all Philadelphians,” said Matt Rader, President of the Parkway Council Board of Directors.
The boundaries of the public realm design project are 20th Street at the southeast to the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum to the northwest and bordered by Winter Street on the south and Pennsylvania Avenue to the north.
Design Workshop’s subcontractor team includes:
- Ground Reconsidered
- Traffic Calmer
- Mobility in Chain
- The Cultural Landscape Foundation
- CH Planning
- Meloria Design
- ETM Associates
- Dharam Consulting
“Whether we are hosting Jay-Z or the Eagles Super Bowl Parade, whenever something big happens in Philly, it happens on the Parkway,” said Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell. “Design Workshop team gets it, and gets us. They understand the significance the Parkway plays in defining the heritage, culture, and tourism of our City. We are excited to begin redefining who we are and what we value by designing a more vibrant, inclusive, and pedestrian-friendly Parkway that prioritizes people and parks over cars and concrete.”
The Parkway Ideas Workshop
In Summer 2021 the City held a virtual and in-person Parkway Ideas Workshop, during which three select design teams, including Design Workshop, presented their creative ideas and inspiration for ways to modernize and pedestrianize the Parkway. You can find the work prepared during the Ideas Workshop here.
As part of the Ideas Workshop, over 600 residents completed a public survey to share their preferences on what the Parkway redesign should emphasize, including inclusivity, connections, place-making, and pedestrian access. The resident survey findings will help inform Design Workshop’s plans for the community engagement process, which is expected to begin in early 2022.
The Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability (OTIS) coordinates the implementation of Complete Streets policies in Philadelphia. Complete Streets are designed to ensure safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders. The City’s Complete Streets policy was introduced in 2009 and requires a review of every construction project’s impact on roads, sidewalks, and the bicycle and transit network to ensure that all affected streets adhere to the City policy. This policy improves safety, promotes economic development, reduces congestion, and encourages active transportation. Under the Complete Streets program, OTIS manages the City’s parklet, bike corral, and pedestrian plaza programs.
Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) advances the prosperity of the city and the progress of its people through stewardship of nearly 10,200 acres of public land and waterways, and management of 500 recreation buildings, 166 miles of trail, and 250 playgrounds. PPR offers safe, enjoyable recreation, environmental and cultural programs and events throughout Philadelphia’s parks and recreation system. PPR promotes the well-being and growth of the city’s residents by connecting them to the natural world, to each other and to fun, physical and social opportunities. In 2017, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, set about implementing the park system’s first strategic plan: Our Path to 2020 and Beyond. As a result, PPR is undertaking a period of historic change, setting the department on a course to become a modern, equitable and exceptional parks and recreation system. Visit us at www.phila.gov/parksandrec, and follow @philaparkandrec on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
About Design Workshop
Founded in 1969, Design Workshop is an internationally renowned design firm specializing in landscape architecture, urban planning and strategic services with eight studios in the U.S. and projects spanning the globe. Our work focuses on the intersection of art, community, environment and economics to increase social equity and create places of meaning and resonance. For additional information visit us at www.designworkshop.com and follow @designworkshop on LinkedIn and Instagram.
About the Parkway Council
The Benjamin Franklin Parkway is a public space that is cared for by a broad set of public and private partners who maintain its landscapes and offer programming. The Parkway Council is a non-profit supported by Parkway stakeholders that exists to accelerate the transformation of the Parkway into a great urban park. The master planning process will include collaboration with the Parkway Council and other partners to build capacity to fully implement the plan.
About the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Since the launch of the More Park, Less Way plan in 2013, the City has completed many of the recommendations to improve safety and activate public spaces along the Parkway. The plan outlined improved traffic calming measures as well as ambitious plans to transform Eakins Oval into a pop up park as a critical foundation for re-imaging the Parkway. In that time, the City has:
- Improved pavement markings to create more buffered areas that people should not drive, ride, or walk within;
- Added more directional indications like arrows and messaging painted directly onto the road surface;
- Added more conflict pavement markings indicating where one can expect cars and bikes crossing paths; and
- Increased the number of pedestrian crosswalks indicating the best locations for pedestrians to navigate around and over the Oval and Circle.
- Installed flexible delineator posts at key locations which help keep users in their lanes and help to slow excessive speeding and erratic lane changes;
- Created the Winter Street Greenway, currently in progress, which includes a new playscape, play equipment, dog run, and site amenities;
- Constructed Maja Park to create additional opportunities for passive recreation through new walkways, seating areas, performance plaza and installation of the iconic Maja sculpture by artist Gerhard Marcks to enliven the previously underutilized Southern side of the Parkway in front of Park Towne Place Residences in partnership with The Association for Public Art (aPA) and Aimco.
- Upgraded the playground with a new sprayground and improved the fields and perimeter of Von Colln Field;
- Added soft rumbles, which are raised rumble strips that discourage speeding.
- Oval+ Pop Up Activations: Six week summer activations at the Eakins Oval attracted over 700,000 visitors in the first seven years (2013 – 2019).
- The 2019 season at The Oval+ featured expanded public amenities and programming along the Parkway’s outer lanes via themed blocks informed by resident feedback and inspired by adjacent cultural institutions. More than 40% of visitors to the seasonal pop up said they wanted to see more family related activities at The Oval and along the Parkway.