FNA tests possible pedestrian plaza

The location was at the intersection of Frankford Avenue and Belgrade Street

Photo Credit: Jon Geeting

In recognition of Park(ing) Day 2017, a nationwide celebration of public space where people create pop-up public places in parking spaces, the Fishtown Neighbors Association tested a temporary pedestrian plaza by the rose garden location, at the intersection of Frankford Avenue and Belgrade Street, on Friday, Sept. 15.

Although, according to Jon Geeting, co-chair of the FNA’s Safety & Planning Committee, this area is not really a parking space (as in there’s no parking signs), there remains a lot of extra asphalt. Therefore, the organization thought it would still be an ideal location to set up the pop-up public space, with the goal of slowing vehicles down as they travel through that intersection.

Sponsored by the FNA, Greensgrow Farms and Johnny Brenda’s, the pedestrian plaza was made possible by the farm loaning five barrels, borrowed planters and plants for use at the location. Paul Kimport of Johnny Brenda’s also offered cafe tables and an umbrella, making it more comfortable to cross at this intersection as it is a big priority among local business on Frankford Avenue.

“They were very easy to work with and I think saw it as a good marketing opportunity in addition to an act of neighborly kindness,” Geeting said. “If we pursue something more long-term there, we’ll do a nicer design. This was just something very simple to test the response and see how it would work.”

Geeting added he has been fascinated for a few years with the potential to take advantage of the extra asphalt space you often see in these odd triangular intersections, to add more public space to the area. That being said, he assisted with another Park(ing) Day installation in a similar space in front of Reanimator Coffee (located at Norris Street and Susquehanna Avenue) last year.

“I’m definitely not the first person in the neighborhood to see the potential for taming the Belgrade and Frankford intersection in this way, but I think this is the first time somebody’s done a physical installation here to test out the idea,” Geeting said. “The response from neighbors was overwhelmingly positive. About 70 percent of the people who responded to our survey said the plaza made it safer to cross the street, and about about 80 percent said they wanted to see a permanent plaza at this location.”

FNA survey results

Furthermore, from within the immediate area including approximately 500 feet from the plaza, Geeting noted there were only three negative responses, versus about 20 positive responses. While not everyone provided address information, it was identified from the ones who did the positive responses were clustered around the southern end of Frankford Avenue, closest to the intersection of Frankford Avenue and Belgrade Street.

Thus, based on the strong positive feedback and offers of help Geeting and the FNA received on Park(ing) Day, especially from nearby neighbors, it is possible the organization would pursue a longer-term plaza here. Although it would require some assistance from the New Kensington Civic Design Committee and local businesses too, Geeting said he is under the impression most people would like to see the change to the space made, especially based on the desire for increased public seating.

“This is one of a few potential plazas we’re looking at in the neighborhood. It could go to this one, depending on the order of operations,” Geeting said. “With so many businesses and homes going up around this part of Frankford Avenue, it seems like a natural place to add some seating for people to sit and linger.”

Additionally, he noted that the rose garden itself is lacking seating, and seems like it’s mainly used by people walking their dogs. That being said, he hopes the FNA can help make it a more dynamic and useable public space that simultaneously shortens the crossing distance for pedestrians.

Photo Credit: Jon Geeting

Yet, before the FNA can make this pedestrian plaza a reality, according to Geeting, the Streets Department would have to approve a site plan and do a traffic study. The FNA would also need 50 percent of the neighbors within a 75-foot radius to sign a petition supporting the idea.

“Then the Streets Department would have to approve our final design, the planters and materials we’d use and so on,” Geeting said. “The city would require that we have a credible maintenance plan, and someone would have to insure it. NKCDC owns the parcel so we’d work with them on this.”

For more information on the FNA, visit: https://www.fishtown.org.

For those who stopped by the pedestrian plaza on Park(ing) Day 2017, and who wish to share their thoughts via the survey, visit: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScGWPardJYmPEH4fWywUSbnI2tyK260xVG53pgXKmYgjtzekQ/viewform.