So what does 'More Park, Less Way' mean for Ben Franklin?
Philadelphia's grand boulevard is poised for a makeover and the city is pushing a plan that offers "More Park, Less Way." Right now, the Ben Franklin Parkway is more often though of as a fast driving route, but the city hopes to draw more people there for recreation by adding parks and other attractions.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis said he thinks this has been the most exciting 10 years for the Ben Franklin Parkway since its inception.
"We want to fill the space between Logan Circle and the Art Museum with the kind of ammenities that folks would just be drawn to," DiBerardinis said. "So that really brings people from the neighborhoods to the parkway. Sitting areas, volleyball courts, spray grounds, boccee courts -- things like that that would provide people with wonderful outdoor recreation ammenities close to their home."
So does the city have the money to put the action plan into action?
DiBerardinis said city money can be used to leverage philanthropic contributions to the parkway improvements. He hopes there will be money to begin work on the proejct within the year. It makes sense for the cash-strapped city to spend dollars to improve the parkway, DiBerardinis said, because it contains some of the most important public space in Philadelphia.
"It's serves a lot of functions," he said. "It's the home of our cultural institutions, it's the home of our big celebrations, our big events, but this takes it to the next step. This creates acres and acres of public space that can really act as the neighborhood park for the 70,000 people who are in a 10-minute walking distance from it. So I think that's really important."
Harris Steinberg is the executive director of Penn Praxis, the clinical consulting arm of the School of Design at Penn that helped create the plan. He said the people who live within a 10-minute walk could support big changes on the parkway.
"That's equal to a city the size of Lancaster, Pa.," he said. "So you imagine that many people could actually be in the market for new park space. Through the civic engagement work, we've heard lots of desires for playgrounds for children, for places for millennials to play, for places for seniors to hang out with their friends."
Steinberg said it's time to think big about what the parkway could be.
"What if we took the Luxembourg Gardens and spread it out amongst the 17 acres of underutilized space, came up with 13 acres that could become new park space, and began to think about getting there — to those spaces — in a way that you don't have to fight traffic, programming them with puppet shows and other things that would draw people, and then managing it in a way so it really became a premier civic and cultural space for the city all through the year?"