Fixing wasted potential west of Fairmount Park
The Park West area is special in my heart because it's where I live. It consists of three Philadelphia neighborhoods--Wynnefield, Wynnefield Heights, and Belmont Village--west of Fairmount Park and east of the Main Line (you can see it passing Overbrook Station), as well as Bala and Cynwyd* villages in Montgomery County. It's home to St. Joseph's University, the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, two more seminaries, and about 30,000 jobs clustered between City Line and St. Alsaph's east of Belmont Avenue. It even boasts a minor skyline accentuated by its hilltop locale.
But it's a weird place. The job core in Cynwyd is like Corbusier's wet dream, towers surrounded by an expanse of parking. Apartment and condo developments attempt to be towers-in-a-park while at the same time turning a blind eye to the beautiful expanse of upper Fairmount Park. So ignored, in fact, is it that what should be prime land that airlites, not towers, border the park!
Other than that, City Line from Belmont to St. Joe's is a fairly typical example of a suburban strip. Philly's Saks and a Lord and Taylor, oddly enough, reside here. St. Joe's has two residence halls (Rashford and Borgia) hugging the street--a first--but neither goes the next step and develops ground-floor retail. The fact the base is used for parking is hopeful, however; the available floorplates are large and easily enclosed, should desire merit. Finally, City Line is home to a number of 1920s-era garden apartments; these are the district's oldest buildings and are a handsome building stock.
Two other major transportation features in this plan are (1) adding pedestrian interlinkages in the superblock between Presidential, Monument, Neill, and Conshohocken, as well as a pedestrian path along the park edge (Parkside Avenue is extended for lot access), and (2) the extension of the Cynwyd Trail from Cynwyd Station down to Bryn Mawr Avenue. This will connect the Belmont Plateau into the region bike network, and offer a new bike route between Center City and the Main Line, as well as a velocentric interconnection between Center City and Cynwyd. Eventually, this route will cross the Pencoyd Viaduct and connect with the Schuylkill Valley Trail near Shawmont.
So there you have it, and you also have my philosophy towards urban planning: zoning and design guidelines (face the street, numbskulls!) are my arbiters--I do not urban plan at the site level. Transportation planning, however, is one of the most importation parts of urban planning, and thus (outside of upzoning and preservation areas), most of my urban planning is actually access (transportation) planning.
* Pronounce: Kin-wood.