Great Ideas Take Time

Patrick Starr, Executive VP

Great ideas can sometimes take time! The Spring Garden Street “Greenway” is an excellent example, though it appears that vision will prevail.

PEC began working on a concept plan for a Spring Garden Street Greenway back in 2010. The project evolved from a prior study that indicated the most efficient and feasible ways to travel across Center City Philadelphia by bike were the Pine/Spruce corridor and the Spring Garden Street Corridor. While Pine/Spruce were quickly developed as buffered bike lanes, the idea that Spring Garden Street could accommodate a protected bikeway and efficiently connect the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers and serve as part of the East Coast Greenway led PEC to pursue a more fleshed out vision.

PEC organized and facilitated three community meetings on the corridor between 2011 and 2012. Meetings took place at the Community College of Philadelphia and the German Society. Total attendance at the community meetings surpassed 350 people. In fall 2014, PEC hosted a Pop-up Greenway on the 900 block of Spring Garden Street to build enthusiasm for the project, educate community members on the proposed changes to the corridor, and demonstrate how new green space on Spring Garden Street could improve the physical quality of the corridor. Nearly 50 volunteers actively participated in organizing the event, and nearly 1,000 people visited the Pop-up Greenway.

With the City of Philadelphia’s agreement, PEC prepared grant proposals (both funded) to the PA DCNR C2P2 program and the DVRPC’s Regional Trails Program. This $800,000 funding package enabled Philadelphia’s Streets Department to tackle a true preliminary design. The process concluded in late 2020 with Philadelphia now convinced that, not only was the project totally feasible, it was also highly desirable and a real priority. Still, it cost a lot!

Once again, supported by longstanding partnerships, PEC stepped up to assist. DCNR had previously designated Spring Garden a top ten gap for Pennsylvania’s trails. Similarly, the William Penn Fountation had invested in strategies to revitalize the Delaware and Schuylkill Riverfronts as vital public access to natural resources and took notice of PEC’s recommendation to develop the Greenway. Voila! With some behind-the-scenes conversation, a pathway was opened for the City to obtain $1M from DCNR, an extraordinary commitment, and $2 M from the William Penn Foundation. Not only that — the City has used its influence to place $26 M for construction on the region’s Transportation Improvement Plan, tapping into likely Federal funding to build out a new complete street! This will mean new investment in a corridor that has been ignored since the 1970s in spite of all that has changed all around it since then.

This is a very proud moment for me and PEC, and underscores PEC’s value as an organization committed to connecting Pennsylvanians to our state’s outdoor natural resources by planning and supporting the infrastructure that makes it real!