The darkest time at the Comcast Center was in early 2012. Things were good at the company. But the Wawa was under renovation.
I was working there at at the time, along with about 5,000 other people. It seemed like half the building went through the Comcast Center’s back doors to go to the old Wawa for lunch, mid-day snack breaks or a quick coffee. Including me. And when the Wawa was being re-done, I never went out the Comcast Center’s back doors. The Wawa reopened in June of that year in a nicer, larger location. Even more people left the Comcast Center for the Wawa.
Here’s the problem: The Wawa is at 1707 Arch, in the middle of the block. The Comcast Center’s back doors are also in the middle of the block. The walkway and plaza at Three Logan Square (the former Bell Atlantic Tower) sits across from Comcast, too. The Comcast Center’s back entrance connects with Suburban Station. That means there is a lot of foot traffic across the middle of Arch Street that wasn’t there before the Comcast Center opened in 2008. While it’d be safer if everyone went to the corner to cross the street, that’s simply not happening.
So a Streets Department study came up with a solution: A new crosswalk in the middle of the block. Even better, Liberty Property Trust (which co-owns the Comcast Center) and Brandywine Realty Trust (which owns Three Logan) paid for the whole thing.
Brandywine and Liberty Property approached the Philadelphia Streets Department about the crossing last year. Comcast’s front door is about 150 feet from the corner of 17th and Arch. “The signal at that intersection offered no meaningful protection to the pedestrians here,” writes Streets Department spokesperson June Cantor in an email to Philadelphia magazine. “Motorists approaching this intersection from Arch and 17th Street would accelerate towards the crossing and have no warning if a pedestrian were to step into the street. Meanwhile, pedestrians waiting for a break in the traffic might become impatient and try to cross without a sufficient gap in the traffic.” Right: It was like Frogger out there.
An engineering study settled on an elevated crosswalk with a flashing light. By Pennsylvania law, vehicles must yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. A few parking spots were removed on each side of the street for more sidewalk. “This design was chosen by the group as a way to allow full use of the crossing to all users,” Cantor wrote. “Bump outs were installed in order to prohibit parking and provided proper line of sight for both pedestrian and motorist. The flashing lights are on a sensor which activate when they detect motion.”
The crosswalk lines up with Comcast’s door on Arch and the walkway and plaza at Three Logan Square that leads to Cherry Street. AP Construction did the work in four days. The crosswalk opened on December 8th. Brandywine and Liberty paid for the engineering study, design plans and construction of the crossing.
“We are gratified that our private sector partners were proactive in helping to improve the crossing,” Cantor wrote. “As development gathers pace and foot traffic picks up across the city, challenges like this can arise. Often it is possible to avoid such conditions by moving major building entrances to corners so pedestrians will cross right at intersections.
“When that is not practical, it’s sometimes necessary to think out of the box a little more. Anytime the Streets Department can work with the private sector to improve the safety of the streets, that’s a success.”
The crosswalk is similar to the setup on Penn’s campus where Smith walk crosses 33rd Street in between Franklin Field and The Palestra.
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