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Credit: Courtesy of Penn Facilities and Real Estate Services

A parking lot in front of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania is getting spruced up.

Spruce Street Plaza, located near 33rd and Spruce streets, is an open green space expected to open this December. The $2.5 million project, which covers half an acre, will replace Lot 8, a parking lot. The plaza will have a raised lawn in the center, along with several paved walkways and benches.

Spruce Street Plaza follows the construction of Penn Park and Shoemaker Green as part of Penn Connects 2.0, an initiative that aims to add more open, green space to campus. Both Facilities and Real Estate Services and the University of Pennsylvania Health System funded the plaza.

FRES Vice President Anne Papageorge, who called the plaza “HUP’s front door,” said it will serve as an area for hospital employees to unwind.

FRES project manager Marc Cooper added that the area is environmentally friendly since it uses a porous soil that is completely permeable.

“The whole site acts like a sponge,” Cooper said. “The Water Department was really pleased with the area.”

Cooper added that another feature of Spruce Street Plaza will be a pedestrian walkway that has been added to the southern end of the park, due to the prevalence of jaywalking in the area.

“This crosswalk will bring order, and hopefully increase safety of the pedestrians in the area,” Cooper said.

Food vendors have been relocated to Lot 6, which is in front of Franklin Field. Mark Kocent, principal planner in the Office of the University Architect, said this move to make way for the plaza will serve another important function by easing up traffic.

“From a vehicular point of view, the lot became an attractive place for pedestrians to stop and use food vendors,” Kocent said. “By relocating the vendors, we have reduced jaywalking and allowed ambulances and emergency vehicles to reach the hospital faster.”

He added that the easing up of traffic was one reason HUP decided to invest in the project.

Some students have expressed concerns about the relocation of the food vendors in the area to construct the plaza.

College junior Gavin Huang, who works at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said he spoke to some recently relocated food vendors in their new location.

“I think the park is a good idea in theory,” Huang said. “In reality, though, the relocation of the vendors took away a lot of their business.”

Huang, who frequently buys his meals from the food vendors who operated in Lot 8, believes the relocation inconveniences HUP and CHOP employees.

“So many HUP and CHOP employees used to walk there to get their food,” he said. “Now they have to walk further to Civic Center Boulevard, or just go to Potbelly’s.”

Medical student Eugene Khandros agreed that walking further to find food is a “pain.”

“Most people at the hospital don’t really have time to relax, so I feel that it would be mostly families using the space,” Khandros said. “But it could be a nice area, especially if they make it non-smoking.”

Papageorge said a major goal of the plaza is to connect the University with the city.

“As Penn Medicine expands, it becomes Penn’s gateway to the city,” Papageorge said. “A parking lot is not really an attractive element to say you have arrived at Penn.”

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