Spruce Street Plaza adds to University green space

Penn is adding another scenic green space to its West Philadelphia campus with the construction of the new Spruce Street Plaza at the intersection of 33rd, 34th, and Spruce streets, between the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Penn Museum.

The half-acre, $2.5 million project, an extension of Penn’s green initiative, will replace what was an asphalt parking lot and food vendor site with large shade trees, benches, lighting, seasonal plantings, decorative paving, and a central lawn. A paved walkway and plantings, designed by Matthews Nielson Landscape Architects, will encircle the central grassy area, accented with ornamental trees.

“The pavers are permeable so rain water can easily pass through the joints and filter down to the stone beneath, a sustainable green feature,” says Marc Cooper, project manager in Facilities and Real Estate Services, which is overseeing the project along with the Health System.

Food truck fans need not fear that their favorite vendors have been banished. The trucks have been relocated to the northeast corner of 33rd and Spruce streets, adjacent to Franklin Field. Also known as Lot 6, the area has been transformed into a fresh air food square, complete with electrical infrastructure and landscaping.

To improve pedestrian safety at the busy intersection, the plaza’s design includes designated crossing areas to alleviate jay walking. Fencing will be incorporated into the dense perimeter plantings with openings only at the corners of 33rd and Spruce streets, and 34th and Spruce streets.

There will also be a mid-block pedestrian crossing within the median separating 33rd and 34th streets in front of Penn Tower, equipped with signals to make getting across the busy intersection safer. The rest of the median will be filled with landscaping.

“It’s a thrill that it’s finally happening, and on the heels of other recent open space accomplishments like the refurbishing of Locust Walk, and the creation of Penn Park and Shoemaker Green,” says University Architect David Hollenberg.

The plaza is expected to be completed in December.

Spruce Street Plaza