January - UCD

In November 2011, University City District (UCD) opened The Porch at 30th Street Station, a new public space in Philadelphia. When a larger project by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation created a blank 55’ wide sidewalk in front of the nation’s second busiest train station, UCD saw the opportunity to create a place of activity, respite, and social interaction at a location where there has long been a dire need for pedestrian amenities.

ArtPlace spoke with Prema Katari Gupta, University City District’s Director of Planning and Economic Development, about partnerships which have helped their project:

ARTPLACE: Who outside your organization has been key to your ability to move your initiative forward?

University City District is inherently an organization of partnerships. We exist as a collaborative of universities, health systems, community residents and business owners to make a great place even better. None of our work would be possible without this collective effort. But The Porch at 30th Street Station has helped us bring new partners to the table. Amtrak, for instance, realized from the inception of The Porch that a fitting outdoor anteroom to its majestic train station was an idea that needed to happen. And everyone at Amtrak from Northeast Corridor executives to local station managers has been willing to help us do whatever it takes to make the Porch a success. Further, while we think of The Porch as a vibrant public plaza, it is officially a city street. As such, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities in Philadelphia has been instrumental to our creative placemaking efforts, facilitating a progressive and flexible framework to allow us to transform a barren, concrete surface into a home for art, culture, color and vitality.

ARTPLACE: Are there secrets to good partnerships?

Engaging partner organizations in your work from its inception and being transparent in your goals and vision are critical elements of forming and sustaining partnerships. But finding individual champions for your work at partner organizations and understanding their needs is probably most important. In places where goals overlap and credit can be shared, partnerships are easy. Inevitability, though, you’ll run into real-world issues where give-and-take is required. That’s when personal relationships matter most.

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