What if Spring Garden Street actually lived up to its name? Instead of an 80-foot-wide expanse that cuts a dreary and dangerous furrow across Philadelphia’s midsection, what if there were sidewalks edged with rain gardens, tree-shaded bike lanes, and planted medians? What if the vehicular mosh pits at the Broad and Ridge intersections were reorganized into orderly crossings? What if neglected touchstones from the city’s past, like the Reading Railroad station and the Church of the Assumption, were repaired and reoccupied?
The effort to make Spring Garden live up to its name was launched more than a decade ago by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. It saw that the street could be more than a barren gully separating Center City and the neighborhoods of Chinatown North, Callowhill, Northern Liberties, and Fairmount. Lizzie Hessek, PEC’s trail manager, told me the group understood back then that the street improvements would also stabilize Spring Garden’s surviving buildings.
A decade later, the environmental council’s vision for a greener Spring Garden is finally about to happen. The irony is that it is easier to fix a street than to maintain the buildings that make it a real and meaningful place.