A visionary plan to enhance West Philadelphia’s
key public space. 


Centennial District of West Fairmont Park
Ideas Exchange 

Philadelphia, PA

PORT participated in an ‘Ideas Exchange’ to generate concepts that address the need for investment in the Centennial District of West Fairmont Park. Rather than attempt to address all 540+ acres of the district, the PORT team proposed that Fairmont Parks Conservancy concentrate actions and investments – for new programming, facilities, circulation paths, wayfinding, and expanded biodiversity – in the most visible and accessible areas of the park. Grounded in this pragmatism, the team explored interventions that would be fundamentally transformative for this important public space in West Philadelphia, yet still achievable in the near term.   

The team’s approach centered on the idea that creating a truly ambitious physical plan and design needs to be built on a foundation of dynamic, experiential community engagement. Long a disinvested part of the city, the neighbors of the Centennial District in West Fairmont Park know best what needs to be done to revitalize the area. This approach aims to build trust, foster dialogue, and ensure that community needs and desires are central to the planning process. 

Amber Art & Design 
Landscape Planning + Design
Aimed at drumming up interest and engagement throughout the planning and design process, the team outlined events and strategies that would make the process fun, inviting, and culturally relevant, while also leveraging partnerships community organizations and key cultural institutions in and around Fairmont Park. These “West Park Fest” events would be dance parties, community cookouts, citizen science scavenger hunts, story hours, etc. Accompanied by a bold social media presence and event promotion, these strategies were designed to grab attention and get folks out and enjoying the park in new ways.

The West Way

Back when this was the site of a World’s Fair and the 1887 Centennial celebration, this part of the park was home to a midway – a central area where various attractions, games, and concessions were located. Today, this part of West Fairmont Park remains home to three significant cultural institutions in Philadelphia: The Mann Center, Please Touch Museum, and the Philadelphia Zoo. The PORT team’s proposal was to create “The West Way” – an urban form that echoes the historical midway, connecting all three institutions and expanding their footprints and activities outwards.

Three Institutions - Three New Gateways

The team proposed the creation of three gateways: The Ring, The Stoop, and The Nest, that each extend the footprint of these cultural institutions and connect them to a braid of new circulatory paths and loops that make up The West Way.  
At the eastern gateway of the Centennial District, known as THE NEST, we plan to revitalize the Lansdowne/Girard intersection and the NE Corridor viaduct underpasses. This transformation will create a more inviting and visible entrance, despite heavy traffic. THE NEST will feature a new public plaza with a circulator bus stop, bike share facilities, restrooms, concessions, direct access to Letitia House, and a new observation tower offering panoramic views of West and East Fairmount Parks, paying homage to historical park landmarks. 
At the heart of the West Way lies THE STOOP, a vibrant hub nestled between the Please Touch Museum and Parkside Avenue, where public activity and social interactions thrive. This central square is adorned with tree-lined pathways on one side and a captivating canopy housing various public amenities on the other. Serving as a flexible event space with a striking central fountain, The Stoop redefines public life in Parkside, featuring a destination playground, sports fields, and scenic trails that connect Centennial District Institutions, the Parkside community, and the broader West Fairmount Park.
At the western end of the Centennial District, THE RING gateway establishes a direct connection between Parkside, Wynnefield neighborhoods, the Mann Center, and Concourse/Centennial Lakes. Rather than a single plaza, it features pedestrian corridors surrounding two expansive lawns—one for events near the Mann Center and another for neighborhood gatherings. These corridors embrace an enhanced wet meadow, a new boardwalk, and seating areas, creating versatile spaces for both daily use and special events. 
The project team also recognized the importance of expanding biodiversity and ecological health within the Centennial District. To achieve this, they meticulously designed landscape expansions that complemented the three distinct ecological zones within the park: the low topography wetlands, the flat meadow areas, and the steeply sloped upland forest. These designs not only respected the existing ecologies but also enhanced them, promoting the growth of diverse plant and animal species. 

Multi-modal Connectors

Responding to issues of pedestrian and cyclist safety, the roads currently crossing this area are redesigned as multi-modal connectors. The modifications to existing roadways take advantage of existing assets and right-of-ways, while defining a new central spine of circulation that doubles as public space. These changes include the introduction of generous two-way bike and pedestrian lanes, providing direct connections between key park destinations, and enhancing safety by reducing conflicts between different modes of transportation.