It’s been years in the making but the 40th Street Trolley Portal Gardens are finally opening this month, bringing public space to what was once a grey, concrete section of land.
The University City District (UCD) is officially unveiling the gardens September 27th in and around the 40th Street trolley portal. The public space brings with it a brick walkway surrounded by greenery, benches, and colorful orange and purple chairs. Planters and Elm trees sit throughout the gardens, incorporating more natural elements into the space. At the end of the space is a 150-seat restaurant called the Trolley Car Station, serving diner-style food.
UCD hopes the gardens will be a place where people will come to both relax and enjoy themselves before taking a trolley into Center City.
“It brings dignity to the public transit experience,” Andrew Stober, UCD’s vice president of planning and economic development said of the new space. He added that the portal gardens will welcome visitors and residents from other parts of the city to West Philly and University City, and will serve to enhance the experience of the Baltimore Avenue corridor.
“It’s West Philly putting its best foot forward,” he said.
The project, which totaled around $4.5 million including the restaurant, has been in the works for years. It began when West Philly and University City residents came to UCD about beautifying the space, which longtime Philadelphians will remember as a typical transit portal, full of concrete slabs, wires and rails.
UCD spent the past few years raising money, with initial plans to break ground on the space all the way back in 2015. Those plans were pushed back several times, until the project really started to find ground in 2016 when renderings were released and the restaurant was announced. Construction finally began on the space in the summer of 2017 and wrapped up just over a year later.
The money for the space came from philanthropic funding and local and state grants, Stober said.
He said he doesn’t know how many people UCD expects to see at the space, but that they’re open to changes or improvements the community might want.