The Benjamin Franklin Parkway will feature a whole lot more park space this summer as the city expands its seasonal offerings at Eakins Oval into new, protected space on the street.
The project is called The Oval+. From July 5 through August 26, the outbound outer lanes of the Parkway will be closed between 20th Street and Art Museum Drive to create additional space for walkers and bikers and to make way for large-scale mural installations.
The idea for expanding the seasonal park beyond the perimeter of Eakins Oval came after the popularity of recent events and murals on the Oval. More than 40 percent of visitors requested more family-friendly activities, officials from the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation department said.
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Partial road closures will also address ongoing safety concerns. In the past, people have expressed concerns about crossing multiple lanes of traffic, especially with small children, to reach the summer events in Eakins Oval.
“This year, we’re making The Oval more family-friendly than ever before,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.
Since 2013, a partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department has installed seasonal, summer parks and hosted community events in the eight acres of Eakins Oval.
Each closed intersection of road will feature a large-scale mural highlighting the Parkway as a unifying element between Fairmount Park and Philly’s core.
Murals will feature scenes including kayaks on the Schuylkill and the towers of Center City representing the transition from city to park. Mural Arts Philadelphia and design and illustration studio The Heads of State will work together to design and install the murals.
“We are so excited to expand The Oval+ this year, with an additional 22,000 square feet of artwork,” Jane Golden, executive director of Mural Arts Philadelphia, said. “We are honored to be a partner once again in this massive and inspiring undertaking.”
In addition to the mural installation, the expanded space will feature public furniture, a 800 square foot sandbox and Mr. Mister, a misting pavilion intended to help visitors cool off on hot summer days.
The park opens July 20 and will remain active until August 19. During these four weeks, events will be held from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.
The Eakins Tavern beer garden will return along with a rotating line up of food trucks.
Officials from both the Fairmount Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation are excited about opening the expanded space.
“This year’s expansion of the Oval+ will not just make the Parkway more accessible, it will also invite people to interact with the Parkway in ways they’ve never been able to before,” said Jamie Gauthier, Executive Director of Fairmount Park Conservancy. “We’re excited to see how residents and visitors alike use this seasonal gem.”