City Improvements Planned for Marconi Plaza Park
Marconi Plaza in South Philadelphia is one of the city’s largest public open spaces. Broad Street divides the Plaza in half, creating two nearly identical spaces.
The City created the park in 1913. Famous landscape architects, the Olmstead Brothers, designed the park. In 1926 the park served as the gateway to the Sesquicentennial Exposition. This world’s fair, held in FDR Park, marked the 150th anniversary of the United States. At the time, most of the land south of Marconi Plaza was vacant. To connect the street grid with the fair, the City extended Broad Street south of Marconi. The park became the entrance to a grand, tree-lined boulevard that stretched to FDR Park.
Over time, Marconi Plaza has evolved into a mixed-use park. It features grassy areas, athletic fields, play areas, and shaded plazas. The park has received improvements, but community members sought other changes. They raised concerns about park safety and maintenance. To determine next steps, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation sought to create a plan.
The Marconi Plaza plan is the result of a community engagement process. Parks & Rec also hired a design team, Land Collective. They did an extensive analysis of the site and how it functions.
A series of community workshops began in April 2022. At these workshops, park users & neighbors expressed their thoughts about the park. They also shared ideas about the park’s future. The workshops helped establish what the community liked about Marconi. It also helped determine needs and areas for improvement.
The Land Collective team used community feedback to determine design goals. With each session, the design became more refined and developed. The plan identified four key goals:
- Create a revitalized park.
- Improve accessibility.
- Create a civic core and active edge.
- Make it a welcoming place for all.
The plan created three phases of suggested improvements:
1) Upgrade essential infrastructure and park elements.
Improvements with the most impact will take place first. These include lighting and infrastructure repairs throughout the park.
- Improve lighting.
- Prune existing trees.
- Plant new trees in original locations.
- Re-pave & realign paths for accessibility.
- Add benches.
- Conduct a traffic study for safe pedestrian crossing at Broad Street.
2) Enhance existing active and play spaces.
Activate and improve the spaces around the park’s edge. This is the “active perimeter.” It includes the sports fields and play areas.
- Renovate the playground at both locations.
- Install outdoor fitness equipment.
- Grade and reseed lawn for sport use.
- Build a shed for Friends group.
3) Activate the elevated, middle plaza to serve as a civic space within the park.
The park’s under-utilized elevated middle section provides a unique opportunity. It can serve as a park within the park. The outer edge of this core could include passive play areas like chess or bocce.
- Add native and pollinator-friendly plantings.
- Create an open space in the Central Plaza for events or vendors.
- Install small structures for social play such as:
- Chess tables.
- Bocce court.
- Lending library.
Parks & Rec will soon get to work making these improvements a reality.
To read a detailed version of the Marconi Plaza Plan, please click here: Marconi Plaza plan | Philadelphia Parks & Recreation | City of Philadelphia