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Opening Day at Penn Park

September 20, 2011, Volume 58, No. 03

Penn Park Opening

At the Grand Opening of Penn Park on Thursday, September 15, President Amy Gutmann (center) got some help planting the last of Penn Park’s first batch of trees from City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, Mayor Michael Nutter, W’79, Trustee Chair David L. Cohen, L’81, and Athletics Director Steven Bilsky, W’71. The transformative spaces were designed by the landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts and Brooklyn, New York. There were nearly 550 indigenous trees planted along the pathways and open spaces that share the 24 acres with the athletic fields, tennis courts and parking lot.


Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania

Penn President Amy Gutmann welcomed everyone to the University’s opening celebration of Penn Park last Thursday.

Good afternoon! Welcome Mayor Nutter and Councilwoman Blackwell.

Members of the University Board of Trustees, Quakers, Philadelphians, and friends, it is my absolute pleasure to welcome you to the opening of Penn Park! Seeing is believing: with your strong support Penn has transformed an asphalt parking lot into a bit of paradise for our entire community.

 A half century ago, the Pennsylvania Railroad train-shed wall, a giant eight-block stone viaduct that bisected center city, was finally demolished. The viaduct had cut the western portion of Philadelphia in half. It discouraged development…and limited commercial activity to the east of Broad Street.        

The removal of the “Wall” led to the development of the western part of center city in the late 20th century.

Penn Park will be transformative for West Philadelphia and for the entire city. Penn Park is the consummate expression of our efforts to connect West Philadelphia and Center City, and to weave together Philadelphia’s two most vibrant and exciting neighborhoods. 

Penn Park will be the place where the westward movement of Center City that began with the removal of the “Wall” meets the eastward movement of Penn…the place where Penn’s powerhouse “eds and meds” meet with a revitalized business district, government offices, and a transportation hub.

Penn Park will be a place where Penn student athletes will experience the thrill of victory on the finest courts and fields in Philadelphia. Penn Park also will be a beautiful, sustainable, sociable, green oasis, a perfect setting to enjoy vistas of the Center City skyline and, as John Muir so aptly put it, to wash the spirit clean.

Finally, Penn Park will be a connection between our present and Philadelphia’s historic past. With the opening of Penn Park today, we honor William Penn’s wish “that [Philadelphia] may be a greene country towne which will never be burnt & always wholesome.”

To all the donors to Penn Park, I extend my deepest thanks.  This is truly a day that marks a new beginning for the University and city we all love. Thank you for joining us!


Penn Athletics Director Steven Bilsky
Penn Trustees Chair David L. Cohen

“Penn Park is a significant piece of the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Connects master plan, a plan that was launched in 2006 to create a vibrant and active gateway between West Philadelphia and the rest of the city through sustainable buildings and recreational facilities,” said Mayor Michael Nutter.

Steve Bilsky said, “We have the best outdoor tennis center on the East Coast and maybe beyond that.”

Trustee Chair David Cohen said, “And this space is green in more ways than one. It’s not just the color of the grass, but the rainwater is being collected underneath, as the president said, to minimize runoff into the Schuylkill River. The lighting here is green lighting and the canopy of over 500 new trees.…”

“This was critical to the future of Penn, the future of the community in which we live, and how important it was for Penn as a preeminent educational institution to set a standard for sustainability that nobody else in this country comes close to.”


From left to right, Trustees James S. Riepe, W'65,WG'67 (partially obscured); Andrew R. Heyer, W'79, WG'79; George A. Weiss, W'65; Judy Bollinger, WG'81; and Chair David L. Cohen, L'81; joined President Amy Gutmann for the VIP ceremony and tree planting and Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, W'85; with Trustees Lee Spelman Doty, W'76; Dr. Deborah Marrow, CW'70, GR'78; and David Brush, C'82.  
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Penn President Amy Gutmann.

James Carter, an AlliedBarton Public Safety Officer



Almanac - September 20, 2011, Volume 58, No. 03