The triangle spaces were formed as leftovers when diagonal streets end in the orthogonal grid of Center City, are a typical Philadelphian occurrence. Almost every neighborhood around Center City has them; Moyamensing, Passyunk, Ridge, Germantown, and our very own Grays Ferry Avenue. They have historical roots as they were formed typically around the outskirts of the original Center City grid where outlying roads, trails, or paths met William Penn’s original city plan.
These trails, in many cases, predated the development of the neighborhoods and represented the straightest lines and easiest routes into the city from communities like Germantown or significant landmarks like “Grays Ferry”, a Schuylkill River ferry crossing operated by the Gray family. People walked, produce was delivered, and animals were driven in the most direct line from nearby towns and farms to the city along these routes. As Philadelphia grew and the surrounding neighborhoods developed by extending the grid of streets derived from Center City’s original layout, the diagonal routes were awkwardly reconciled into the expanding grid. The resulting leftover triangular spaces are a rare opportunity in our city of orthogonal grids, to make public spaces in places where overlapping streets are redundant or under used.
About eight years ago residents from SOSNA and CCRA formed the Triangles Committee to address the intersections on Grays Ferry Avenue at South and Bainbridge Streets. The committee hired a traffic consulting firm to study the area and came up with a few ideas for changing the intersection, and we shared them in a large public meeting. Thereafter, the city offered us the opportunity to apply for a pedestrian plaza, so we created a design for the plaza, and with 97% of polled residences, proprietors and property owners within three blocks radius, in agreement, it became a beloved neighborhood amenity, which is currently on its third temporary permit.
Recently, the Vision Zero Committee (formerly the Safety Committee) decided to revisit the design of the intersection at Grays Ferry Avenue and Bainbridge. In a meeting with several City departments, we were invited to write a grant with the City that seeks funding for a redesign and reconstruction of this intersection to improve traffic flow and increase safety for all, while creating a more attractive intersection
We now invite you to share your thoughts about the intersection and the plaza and to see some of the ideas that have been presented to us
As the neighborhood as grown in recent years, the current configuration of the triangles has come to present a safety hazard to both motorists and pedestrians because of the confusing traffic patterns and awkward traffic light timing associated with these intersections. As one of the main arteries to and from the central business district of our city, this area needs to be pedestrian friendly. Over the past year there have been several accidents and injuries at these intersections. By eliminating blind spots, promoting more regular traffic patterns, and providing better defined walking routes, improvements to the triangles will mitigate such issues in the future.
This area borders southwest Center City and is a part of the diverse SOSNA neighborhood. Some recognize it as South Square because of the name of the supermarket, “Odunde triangle” because of the Odunde festival, or “Catharine Thorn triangle,” the name inscribed on the historic fountain. But this little commercial district lacks a collective sense of itself or an identity. But since it has become a temporary public space we have seen how it has added to the public realm bringing people together for movie nights, summer concerts with food trucks, and provided a central public space that ties the commercial district together.
The public space at the northern triangle is temporary but we intend to make it a permanent public space that serves the adjacent neighborhoods and the commercial district. The southern triangles need to address more complex issues that improve pedestrian and bicycle safety as well as more efficient vehicular traffic patterns.
These triangle areas are the only underdeveloped public space in the immediate area. There is the Julian Abele Park at 22nd & Carpenter Streets and the larger park at Marian Anderson Recreation Center but no other location in the SOSNA area has the opportunity to provide public space in the center of a long-standing commercial district. People engage with each other in collective activities like shopping, working, and entertainment in public spaces. The public realm should encourage these activities by its design to the benefit of residents and businesses alike.
Right now these triangles are leftover spaces without any great value. Sustainability is about finding value in existing conditions (reuse, recycle, restore), and making things more environmentally friendly by reducing stormwater runoff and adding more canopy trees and park space. In this light, it is easy to see the hidden potential in these unused triangular spaces.
These public areas should be thought of as important places that are physically connected to the surroundings and contiguous neighborhoods. They are one small link in a chain public places… the development of South Street Bridge across to West Philadelphia, the Schuylkill River Trail along the river to Fairmount Park, and the other public parks and spaces in the adjacent communities that unite this area and make it a unique place to live and conduct business.
The success of the neighborhood commercial district is based on all these matters. We want to see the commercial district serve the neighborhood which means visibility, easy access to the surrounding neighborhoods, ample parking that turns over regularly to accommodate new patrons, convenient and safe access via transit and bicycle along with pedestrian friendly crosswalks, streets, and public areas.The success of the neighborhood commercial district is based on all these talking points. We want to see the commercial district serve the neighborhood which means visibility, easy access to the surrounding neighborhoods, and ample parking, along with pedestrian friendly crosswalks, streets, and public areas.
South of South Neighborhood Association (SOSNA) is pursuing a grant opportunity to make the Triangle Plaza a permanent space and to improve the intersection at Grays Ferry Avenue and Bainbridge Streets -- and we need your input!
We are using a community engagement process to make the project successful so please consider sharing your ideas and opinions at our Open House. We’ll also have a table at SOSNA’s 10th Annual Plazapalooza celebration on May 11 from 12-7p at 23rd & South! Come out to see what we’re up to.