Representatives from the Coalition of Civics – a partnership of local civic associations including WICA, Wissahickon Neighbors Civic Association, Manayunk Neighborhood Council, Ridge Park Civic Association, Central Roxborough Civic Association, and Upper Roxborough Civic Association – have met with SEPTA to address questions and concerns raised at the July 1, 2020 Art Commission meeting. Mediated by Alan Greenberger, chair of the Art Commission, SEPTA has updated the overall design of the Wissahickon Transportation Center.
Design updates by SEPTA include:
• Pulling back the building and canopy structure on the front island to widen the sidewalk
• Addition of a vertical clock tower element to improve the scale of the intersection
• Adjustments to the layout of the front island, including moving the location of the supervisor’s booth to provide a clearer path and better sightlines across Ridge Avenue
• Alleviation of pedestrian pinch points on the side where Deke’s BBQ is currently located to create more comfortable entry points
• Addition of green space and edging to create screening by the storage facility and the existing WTC building
Inga Saffron, architecture critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer, recently published an article discussing the importance of the Wissahickon Transportation Center. “This is where the Schuylkill River meets the Wissahickon Creek, where the Kelly Drive bike path links up with the Wissahickon trails, where the hard, gridded streets of Philadelphia’s center relax into the greener, gentler neighborhoods of the Northwest,” she writes.
“SEPTA has now revised the station to the point that the design of the building is almost acceptable. Instead of a Jetsons-style space port, the main passenger area looks like a modern interpretation of a Frank Furness Main Line station, with a gently sloped hip roof and a brick-and-stone facade.”
The Coalition of Civics has still expressed concerns, including lack of public restrooms, lack of an enclosed waiting space, and treatment of the area where Deke’s BBQ is currently located with the proposed plans calling for rock removal and the construction of a retaining wall.
In Saffron’s article, she observed that “the project remains deeply flawed in ways that have nothing to do with architecture. SEPTA continues to hedge on whether it will provide basic amenities, such as public restrooms and an enclosed waiting area. The project still fails to make the most of its location where the region’s most heavily used bike paths meet. Even worse, the additional road infrastructure planned for the new transportation center could undermine the area’s park-like character.”
Since the City of Philadelphia will not be attributing funds towards the project, the next design phase will no longer be presented to the Art Commission as previously planned. However, SEPTA has agreed to hold another community meeting for public feedback at a date yet to be determined.