University Breaks Ground on Penn Park

November 7, 2009

The University of Pennsylvania officially broke ground Friday, Nov. 6, for its 24-acre Penn Park, a $46 million project at the eastern edge of campus that features open space, athletic fields and tennis courts.

The parcel, located south of Walnut Street, with Amtrak rail lines to the east and the SEPTA rail corridor to the west, is 14 acres of land Penn purchased from the U.S. Postal Service in 2007 as well as 10 acres the University already owned below South Street.

Penn Park, the centerpiece of Penn Connects, the University’s 30-year master plan, should be completed by 2011. The park will bring 20 percent more green space to the urban campus, while creating a new gateway uniting University City with Center City.

“For far too long, these 24 acres of pure potential stretching along the west bank of the Schuylkill River have been buried under a cold carpet of asphalt and concrete,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said. “After 25 years in the making, Penn Park is finally becoming a reality, and it will put Penn, yet again, at the forefront of innovative land use and responsible urban design, weaving the eastern edge of campus into the daily fabric of Center City life. “

A team led by landscape-architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates of Cambridge, Mass., along with 13 consultants, designed the space to include three athletic fields, a 12-court outdoor tennis facility, and a gently ramped and accessible elevated walk that allows pedestrian movement throughout the site and a raised central plaza with Center City skyline views.

The playing fields will be multipurpose with synthetic turf for club, intramural or recreational games. One field will be covered with a seasonal air structure to create an indoor environment that will allow athletics programming throughout the winter months.

Sculptural landforms, planted with a variety of trees and native grasses, will define the setting of the playing fields and support the pedestrian walkways. A storm-water management system is planned to capture and divert rainwater into underground cells to supply the site’s irrigation system. Park lighting will feature energy efficient fixtures with shielding to prevent light pollution. Other sustainable design strategies for development include reuse of existing paving materials on site to minimize waste in construction and operation.

Additional information about Penn Park and Penn Connects is available at


Penn has won the EPA Green Power Purchasing Award every year since 2006.

Share a Story

Do you have a sustainability story to share with the campus? Want to hear more about a specific topic or project?
Send us an email
and we'll consider the content for inclusion on the website or in a future e-newsletter.