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North Broad Street’s Rapid Renaissance

September 26, 2011

I’ve posted before about the general greening and beautification of the city. Major projects include the relocation of the world-renowned Barnes Foundation to Benjamin Franklin Parkway (at the former site of a facility for juvenile delinquents, no less); the gorgeous new Race Street Pier; and the still-developing push for an elevated greenspace on the Reading Viaduct.

Promenade of Lights on North Broad Street

The coming Promenade of Lights on North Broad Street

But North Broad Street has quickly emerged as the epicenter of the quickening revitalization of Philadelphia’s urban core. The expansion of the convention center has taken it all the way west to North Broad, where its facade features a large but fairly tasteful LED light installation. Across the street, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts’s newly renovated Lenfest Plaza, which features a specially commissioned Claes Oldenburg mega-sculpture, provides a gateway to the Parkway.

Meanwhile, coming soon are highly anticipated restaurants at 600 N. Broad by high-profile restauranteurs Marc Vetri, Steven Starr and Joe Volpe. And the city is doing its part to turn North Broad into a classy destination, like  its counterpart to the south, the Avenue of the Arts. The city will create a “promenade of lights” by installing 55-foot light masts in the median of North Broad’s lower 2 1/2 miles. Meanwhile, Dilworth Plaza–which connects North Broad with the Avenue of the Arts portion of upper South Broad–will get a comprehensive, $50 million dollar conversion into a sizeable greenspace over the next two years. With all that momentum, the future is looking pretty bright for North Broad Street. Here’s hoping the next piece to fall in place is the rebirth of the Divine Lorraine.

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