Amy Gutmann | A milestone in the making

I hope Penn Park fills you with pride

· September 14, 2011, 11:49 pm   ·  Updated September 15, 2011, 2:30 pm

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I am thrilled to invite you to join me, Chairman David Cohen, alumni, friends and colleagues as we officially open Penn Park.

Looking out over the Park, it is hard to believe that this started six years ago in a moment of institutional reflection: To be green, or not to be green. That was the question.

The place was College Hall. The year was 2005. Assembled around a table were a team of faculty, students and staff who engaged with me in a highly focused discussion. The topic was the best use of 14 acres of surface parking lot that Penn would soon acquire from the United States Post Office. The deliberation was earnest and expert, and the themes being tossed around went something like this:

The redevelopment of this land, continuous to our campus, holds the potential for the strongest possible link between Penn’s campus and Center City.

Walnut Street should be a new gateway corridor of vibrant economic activity.

The land could enhance the quality of life for generations of Penn students to come.

This allows us to support the academic mission in a measured way over time.

We could create a recreational hub of activity.

This blanket of asphalt could be green.

And then the Penn team coalesced around a catalytic idea.

Why yes, the place could be green … and by being green we would realize the potential for all those aforementioned aspirations.

The rest, as they say, is history, and today — as Penn Park opens and you explore its many fine qualities — I hope it fills you with pride.

For me, that pride comes from two places:

First, it represents the first time that Penn, by design, acquired land that we decided would forever more remain as open space. We have added 20 percent more green space to campus; 548 new trees, native flora and grasses; and the collection and treatment of rain water — all of which are tremendous environmental benefits for our region and city as Penn strives to reduce its carbon footprint. And as the centerpiece of our Penn Connects campus development plan, the final product is responsible land use and eye-captivating design.

Second, and most important, Penn Park is healthy fun. For our club, intramural and varsity athletes, Penn Park is a place to harness their love of athletics and sports. Beyond athletics, Penn Park is a respite. We love Penn as a great research and teaching university where we both work and play hard. The day in and day out of life requires such a respite from our daily work, which enhances the contributions we make through our work. These athletic fields, tennis courts, pathways, open spaces and picnic groves enhance the quality of life for all at Penn — and everyone in our city who is welcome to share the pleasures of the Park’s pathways and open spaces.

Athletes, bookworms, nature enthusiasts — take some time out of your busy days and stroll down to Penn Park. It’s there for all to enjoy as a milestone for Philadelphia and for all past, present and future Quakers.

Amy Gutmann is the President of the University of Pennsylvania. Her email address is president@upenn.edu.

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