Breaking ground on Penn Park

Penn Park model

Phase I of the University’s Penn Connects plan has begun with the development of Penn Park, a $40 million urban landscape project that will bring much-needed open and athletic space to University City.

President Amy Gutmann has called Penn Park the “centerpiece” of Penn Connects, the 30-year plan to grow the University eastward and link it with the city.

The Park, bound by Walnut and South streets, the Schuylkill River and Penn’s main campus, will cover 24 acres and bond the University with Center City. It replaces 14 acres of asphalt parking lots once owned by the United States Postal Service.

Architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, who partnered with Penn on the Module VII Chiller Plant, are designing the urban park, which will include open fields, sprint turf fields, a softball stadium, a dozen tennis courts and an enclosed seasonal air structure.

Anne Papageorge, vice president for the Division of Facilities and Real Estate Services, says the temporary air structure will rise in the late fall and come down in the early spring, giving the athletics department space to practice during the cold weather months.

“Right now, except for inside The Palestra and [Hutchinson Gym], which are not really for field sports, you basically don’t have a place to practice,” she says.

The 190-foot Weave Bridge, made of steel, wood and polymers, will connect the Park with recreation and athletic facilities south of Hollenback Center and link the open spaces north and south of South Street.
Penn Park exemplifies the University’s commitment to boost the social capacity of the region and improve the physical landscape of West Philadelphia. It is for all to enjoy and will be accessible to the public. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2011.

Gutmann said in a statement that this is the first time that Penn has acquired land specifically to use as open space. That open space will have tremendous environmental benefits for the campus and the city.

“Penn Park will dramatically enhance our athletic and recreational amenities, create a beautiful new campus gateway and further link University City and Center City,” she says.

Originally published March 26, 2009

Originally published on March 26, 2009