Updated: Jul 11, 2022
By Morgan Page
Commercial corridors are the backbone of neighborhoods across the country. They bring together a community's culture, social capital, and economy to create a heart of urban vitality. N 2nd street has long been a collective favorite commercial corridor, and while it has so much to offer, room for improvement has always been there. With a combination of industrial and historic buildings, Northern Liberties offers a unique atmosphere despite the below subpar street presence. With the ever-growing problem of streetscapes favoring cars over pedestrians and cyclists, N 2nd St is no stranger to this issue.
We noticed something exciting while reading through the Northern Liberties Business Improvement District (NLBID) page. NLBID has teamed up with KieranTimberlake & PORT Urbanism to bring us the Streetscape Vision Plan.
Before we dive deeper, we should acknowledge the enormous impact this type of update could provide. With the businesses dependent on people wanting to be there, the current streetscape will not hold up for long. These updates could truly revitalize and bring more people into this area. And by more people, we mean a lot more.
Over the next several years 5600+ units are going to be added into the mix, yes 5600+! At that rate, this area could become much more crowded for pedestrians and border on nightmarish for drivers and cyclists. Luckily the opportunities to repurpose the wasted space and turn it into something extraordinary and per NLBID's Proposed plans, we are in luck.
Despite the generic name, Poplar and Fairmount's design looks incredibly impressive. The planners have dubbed the focal point of this revamped design "Market Green." With the proposed plans the extra-wide roadway is going to be no longer, and pedestrians and retail space will be able to reclaim the area. On top of that, Outdoor seating, trees, and improved parking designs will engage what is currently an open and poorly maintained couple of blocks.
Along with that sculptural pavilion will line the entire length of the street, contributing extra shade while also offering opportunities for standardized signages, programming, lighting, and seating that will tie this stretch together.
North of Market St there is also proposed plans for the Laurel St Intersection... For those who are familiar with this area, I think we can agree on the necessity of an update. And I don't think it is too much to ask, but some more landscaping & greenery would be a pleasant change from the usual awkwardly wide road.
Without a grand entrance, does grand st deserve its name? Luckily plans call for two gateways on both northern and southern ends. The Northern end will be located at the corner of 2nd & Germantown, possibly the most construction-heavy intersection in the entire city.
The Gateway on the Southern end of the corridor at Spring Garden is even more exciting. This will allow for signage to direct folks, and an extended mural wall/park space could reach Willow St towards Callowhill. Since the urban renewal era, this park space would form the first genuine connection between Northern Liberties and Old City and open the door for a lovely pop of greenery.
Black Horse Inn Yard, 2nd Street north of Callowhill, ca. 1899 (Free Society of Philadelphia)
To say this could be an immense change is an understatement. With changes impacting everyone, Market Green could transform the pedestrian and bicyclist experience while modulating and reducing car traffic. Pushback against Market Green changing 2nd from a two-lane street to a one-lane street is inevitable, but for the future, I see it as the right move. We can only hope other areas, I have a couple of particular places in mind, will see the same level of care in the future.