7/13/2011

Penn Park; An Urban Oasis

The University of Pennsylvania's Penn Park is a project of Penn Connects, a long-range land use and urban design campus plan for the University initiated in conjunction with the goals behind Penn's Climate Action Plan.  The park is located located at 31st Street, between Walnut Street and South Street, and bound by Amtrak, CSX and SEPTA rail lines.





During construction most of its infrastructure remained unnoticed by passers by, but now you can't help but notice the change in texture from raised terrain and lush spread of young trees, some at flood plain levels and others planted 25 feet above flood levels.  Penn Park's architect, Michael Van Valkenburgh, envisioned a traditional, easy to maintain plant system.  The park contains 520 trees and a variety of meadow grasses.  While the plantings are the most notable change at Penn Park, the structural aspects of the project have progressed substantially.  Showing progress are the beginnings of the multi-purpose stadium, the dugouts, and the tennis center, which includes 12 courts, all of which are surrounded by landforms made using Mechanically Stabilized Earth (MSE) instead of concrete, saving $1.8 million on the total project budget.




Park entrances are also well on their way.  The Allee bridge connects the Paley Bridge Extension to the park; the Walnut Street footbridge is a dramatic link to the open space; and two other pedestrian access points connect the park to the rest of the city.  The multi-purpose playing and recreational fields have been paved, electrical lines run for high performance lighting, and the drainage systems installed.




The park will be completed in mid-August and the fields will be open for use, with the addition of a seasonal air structure being installed in November to allow for indoor athletics on one field during winter months.  The Park will be managed by Penn but will function as a public space  The multi-purpose stadium will hold over 400 spectators and the park will have approximately 200 parking spots.  Use of the fields will be scheduled through Penn Athletics or Penn Facilities and Real Estate Services for both formal and informal events.  The size of the two synthetic turf fields can accommodate three games simultaneously.  The open space that makes up roughly half of the park space will be open to the public.