Will Spring Garden get the green light?

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Design proposal shows Spring Garden Street after improvements that could come to the busy corridor.

IMAGINE SPRING GARDEN Street as a green, park-like corridor comparable to the Ben Franklin Parkway.

Al Girard, treasurer and a board member of the Spring Garden Civic Association, said he expects the Spring Garden Street Greenway project, now being developed by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, to turn that idea into reality.

"It will really be beautiful," said Girard, who describes Spring Garden as a "utility street." "At the end of this project there will be two very beautiful streets, very close to each other. I think it's amazing."

Patrick Starr, executive vice president of the Philadelphia region of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, said the organization is working with city and state agencies to transform the 2.2-mile east-west roadway into a linear park or "greenway" connecting the city's Delaware and Schuylkill riverfronts.

"We think Spring Garden Street can be a real hub of activity," Starr said. "It has what we call 'good bones.' It's a wider street and some parts already have a median strip with nice trees."

The greenway promises to not only provide safer biking, hiking and automobile travel between the rivers, but will also become part of Pennsylvania's link to the East Coast Greenway, a trail for hiking and biking extending from Maine to Florida. It has been described by some as an "urban Appalachian Trail" and will eventually extend to Canada.

The PEC is holding a community meeting tomorrow at 6:30 p.m.at the German Society of Philadelphia, on Spring Garden near 6th, to ask for input from residents along the busy corridor.

Spencer Finch, director of sustainable infrastructure for the PEC, said residents, neighborhood and civic organizations, business owners, transit riders, cyclists and motorists are invited to the public-design workshop to share ideas on how to make Spring Garden more user-friendly.

Finch added that the project also seeks to turn Spring Garden into a "green street" that would more efficiently handle stormwater runoff.

Sarah McEneaney, vice president of the Callowhill Neighborhood Association, said she loves the idea of the greenway and hopes that it will improve the stretch of Spring Garden from 6th to 13th streets, which is now marked by empty and underused lots.

"We [the Callowhill neighborhood] are like the hole in the doughnut," McEneaney said, pointing to improvements along Spring Garden in the Art Museum area, Fairmount, North Broad and Northern Liberties.

McEneaney, an avid biker, said that she's also excited because the greenway would tie into a planned elevated park above the old Reading Viaduct, an abandoned railway trestle that stretches from Vine Street to just north of Spring Garden. City officials are in talks with Reading International, which owns the viaduct, to develop it as a park.

"People can come up from the greenway and walk onto the viaduct or cycle," McEneaney said.