Visions of Vibrancy: Center City Philadelphia

October 24, 2014 10 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The vibrancy of cities comes in all shapes and sizes. Many believe that what works in internationally known comsopolitan settings may not be applicable for cities that have struggled with embracing walkability, such as Jacksonville. If we look hard enough, we may realize that this type of view should be challenged. Despite the diversity around the globe, all lively cities, downtowns, and urban cores have something in common: being pedestrian-friendly.

Center City Philadelphia covers Philadelphia's city limits prior to consolidation with Philadelphia County in 1854.

Downtown Jacksonville with the boundaries of Center City Philadelphia included.


In June 2014, The Street ranked Philadelphia as the 6th most bike-friendly city in the country. "According to a study from the University of California at Berkeley, 37% of Philadelphia workers commute without a car, compared to 33% for Chicago and 45% for San Francisco. Overall, 13% of Philadelphia households do not own a car. In Philly that leaves you with only a few options: the much-maligned trains and buses of the city's SEPTA system, bikes, or a really good pair of walking shoes."


Logan Circle is one of the five original planned squares laid out on the Philadelphia city grid. The park was used for public executions and burial plots until the early nineteenth century. Originally called "Northwest Square," in 1825 it was renamed Logan Square after Philadelphia statesman James Logan.




With 19.8 miles of track still in operation, with a average weekday ridership of 84,829 (FY 2014), Philadelphia's streetcar network is the largest and busiest in the mid-Atlantic. Shown above, SEPTA's Route 23 trolley route was the longest streetcar line in the United States and disputed to be the longest line in the world. Viewed as not being cost-effective, SEPTA completely replaced this route with bus service in 2003.



Lit Brothers was a moderately-priced department store opened by Samuel and Jacob Lit at North 8th and Market Streets in 1891. The store's slogan was "A Great Store in A Great City," and it was noted for its millinery department. Also known for "Hats Trimmed Free of Charge," the Lit Brothers department store chain closed in 1977.


Independence National Historic Park is a 55-acre national park that preserves several sites associated with the American Revolution and the nation's founding history. Designated as a U.S. National Landmark District on October 15, 1966, the park is known as "America's most historic square mile," and is Philadelphia's most-visited historic district. Iconic elements of the park include the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution was adopted.



The Reading Terminal was a train depot built in 1891-93 by the Reading Railroad. Due to the site being the location of an open-air market established in 1853, the railroad agreed to purchase the market and include it as a part of its new railroad terminal. With the market on the ground level of the trainshed, all tracks were constructed on story above street level. During World War II, 45,000 daily passengers used the terminal. Replaced by Market East Station (now called Jefferson Station), train service at this terminal ended on November 6, 1984.

In the early 1990s, the terminal was renovated into the Pennsylvania Convention Center and retail space. The Reading Railroad's former offices contain over 200 rooms for an adjacent Marriott Hotel, which is connected by a skywalk.




Above: The Grand Court of Wanamaker's. Wanamaker's was the first department store in Philadelphia and one of the earliest in the country. The chain was absorbed into Hecht's in 1995. All Hecht stores were rebranded as Macy's in 2006.


A pedestrian-oriented system, Walk!Philadelphia was developed by the Center City District and Joel Katz design associates in the mid-1990s. The wayfaring signage program has been very successful in helping pedestrians find their way quickly and easily around Center City.





Broad Street is known as the Avenue of the Arts district, between Washington Avenue on the south to Glenwood Avenue on the north. It is home to several performing arts venues, including the Kimmel Center, the Clef Club and Freedom Theatre.



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