This is a view from the Philadelphia Museum of Art looking north to the George Washington statue (foreground) in the Eakins Oval. From here the Benjamin Franklin Parkway extends a mile to the Philadelphia City Hall. Photo: LASN cover Sept. 2008
Perhaps the most beautiful boulevard in the U.S. is Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a 1917 design of Jacques Gréber that calls to mind the Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris. The mile-long parkway begins at the Philadelphia City Hall, goes around the Swann Memorial Fountain in Logan Circle and terminates by looping the Eakins Oval in front of the “Rocky” steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with Fairmount Park, the Schuylkill River and the river trail just beyond.
Within the parkway is a fair amount of underused green space, a kind of sprawling park surrounded by a busy, multi-lane thoroughfare. The Penn Current reports PennPraxis, the research arm of the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania, has proposed recommendations for making the boulevard’s green spaces more useable and accessible. PennPraxis recommends creating four parks within the parkway’s green space for picnicking, concerts, with cafes, recreational facilities and additional benches.
PennPraxis has been working with Philadelphia city officials over the past year to devise their plan, “More Park, Less Way.” The plan proposes replacing the parking lot at Eakins Oval near the Philadelphia Museum of Art with green space. “Traffic-calming” measures and more crosswalks would be added along the parkway to make it easier and safer to access adjacent parks and museums.
Harris Steinberg, executive director of PennPraxis, asserts the changes could be made within the next three years. He says Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter supports the plan.
Steinberg, who previously created a plan to revitalize Philadelphia’s Delaware riverfront, envisions a civic promenade for the city’s, if not the country’s, most engaging boulevard.