30th street districtA new plan for the 30th Street Station District was unveiled at a public open house on Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The plan was funded and created by a partnership of Amtrak, SEPTA, PennDOT, Drexel University, and Brandywine Realty Trust, developers of the Cira Centre and Cira South office and residential towers, and was created after several community meetings and another open house this last summer, where attendees were encouraged to share their thoughts. The study covers an area that includes the Powelton and Mantua neighborhoods, the neighborhoods just east of the Schuylkill River, the station’s rail yards, downtown University City, and Penn Park, which is south of Walnut Street. The primary study area includes the rail yards, the Cira towers, and the properties along JFK Boulevard, where Drexel wants to build a district of research labs and high-tech office buildings which they are calling the future “Innovation Neighborhood”.

The plan has three main elements of analysis: transportation, development of potential future visions, and the synthesis and elaboration of the final vision into a district plan. To accomplish this, the stakeholders will hold additional community meetings. To date, there have been 1,300 public comments. The district plan has three goals: community, to create a vibrant neighborhood to live and work; connectivity, to take advantage of 30th Street Station’s potential to be a multi-modal transit center; and identity, to create a unique and noteworthy identity for the whole district in the study area. The design objectives include placemaking, creating a 21st century hub, multi-modalism, new and connected neighborhoods, increased connections to the Schuylkill River, and connecting Center City to University City.

The draft physical framework has several components for the district. The district is to be pedestrian friendly, it is to have improved connections to SEPTA, there would be improved connections to Center City and University City, improved waterfront access, and a new mixed-use neighborhood over much of the rail yard. That neighborhood would have a mix of high rise office and residential buildings, along with retail and several parks. The new neighborhood would be connected to the Logan Square neighborhood, and the Schuylkill Banks trail, by three new pedestrian bridges over the Schuylkill River, at Arch Street, Race Street, and further north at Pearl Street. There would, also, be several new parks. One of those parks would be called Schuylkill Bluffs and would be right along the river and another would be along the western edge along 31st Street, next to the Powelton and Mantua neighborhoods. Greenway paths would be added to the neighborhood, including underneath the high line train trestle, leading to the pedestrian bridges over the river, thus giving residents of the new neighborhood, and Powelton and Mantua, a new connection to Center City. A waterfront park would be added next to the Schuylkill Expressway and connected to plazas next to the station with ramps and stairs. In order to continue the theme of making the district more multi-modal, a new bus facility would be built to the north of the station and a new underground tunnel would be built between 30th Street Station and the 30th Street Market/Frankford Station, which would include retail and a skylight to the surface. 30th Street Station itself would be renovated, with new retail and improved public plazas.
The next step in the process would include more community meetings to eventually create a final plan that could be adopted by city, state, and federal agencies. Early action items include the new connection to the Market/Frankford line, renovating 30th Street Station with more retail, more greening around 30th Street Station, the new bus facility, and a new office tower next to Cira Center and the Amtrak garage.

By, Gabriel Gottlieb