Shoemaker Green, Penn’s Newest Commons, Honors Trustee for Years of Service; Dedication Sept. 20

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Media Contact:Julie McWilliams | | 215-898-1422September 17, 2012

PHILADELPHIA – Shoemaker Green, the newest landscape project on the University of Pennsylvania campus, was created in honor of emeritus trustee Alvin Shoemaker.

The 2.75-acre green space features a central lawn surrounded by walkways along the perimeter and native plantings.  It is located along 33rd Street in front of the Palestra and between the David Rittenhouse Labs and the Weiss Pavilion at Franklin Field.

"I am so glad we are able to honor Al for his years of service to Penn with this alluring addition to our campus," Penn President Amy Gutmann said.  "Shoemaker Green’s natural beauty is an ideal gateway to Penn Park and a new kind of public commons that is as environmentally sensitive as it is beautiful.  It is something that we can proudly invite all members of our community to enjoy."

An opening ceremony and celebratory picnic will be held from noon to 2 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 20, at the site, with Gutmann and Trustees Chair David Cohen offering remarks to honor Shoemaker and cutting the ribbon.

Shoemaker, a former chairman of First Boston Corporation, is a graduate of the Wharton School, where he previously served as an overseer. He is also a former chair of the Athletics Overseers.

As chair of the trustees from 1986 to 1994, he oversaw the Campaign for Penn fund-raising effort, which brought in $1.4 billion and initiated efforts to purchase the postal lands, which is now the site of Penn Park.  He currently serves on the steering committee for Penn’s $3.5 billion Making History campaign.

He and his wife established the Sally & Alvin V. Shoemaker Professorship in Anthropology, and the Shoemaker family, including four children who are Penn alumni, are active volunteers for the University.

“Shoemaker Green has a lot of the qualities of College Green, which is pedestrian-friendly,” said Anne Papageorge, vice president for facilities and real estate services.  “It connects the core of campus to Penn Park via Smith Walk, and it makes the surrounding buildings much more visible.”

The lawn area is perfect for movie nights, picnics and other leisure activities. Although slightly sloped, the site is gradual enough that tents can be erected there for special events.

Shoemaker Green’s amenities include built-in benches in front of the Palestra, small benches in nooks and crannies on hardscape and café tables for outdoor eating. Three sets of bike corrals have been installed along the perimeter to support sustainable transportation around campus.  For safety reasons, cyclists are asked to walk their bikes through the site between 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The project includes a refurbished plaza for the University’s war memorial with rebuilt steps and wing wall, a repointed landing and new plantings and curbing to set it off from the walkway.

“We worked to increase the prominence of the war memorial to be more of an art element,” David Hollenberg, University architect, said. “It now has the space it deserves.”

One of the project’s real challenges, Hollenberg said, was grading the site to so many pre-existing doorways, curbs and steps.

“It was incredibly difficult to make all these different levels meet without anyone realizing you’ve done it,” he said.

Another priority was making the pedestrian crosswalk across 33rd Street safer. The design team created a speed table – a 50-foot elevated roadbed at the same height as the curbs – which makes the roadway only two lanes wide. New signage and flashing traffic lights were installed.

The project’s multiple sustainability elements are highlighted by a rain garden in the northwest corner that will serve as a basin to capture rainwater run-off and filter it before it is collected in a 20,000-gallon underground cistern and used for irrigation of the site.

Shoemaker Green has also been a pilot project for a national landscape architecture rating system called the Sustainable Sites Initiative, similar to the U.S. Building Council’s LEED certification process.

This is not Al Shoemaker’s first honor for his service to a grateful University.  In 1995, Penn awarded him an honorary doctorate, and he was previously honored with the Alumni Award of Merit, Penn Alumni’s highest honor.  In 1994, he received the Beacon Award from the Trustees' Council of Penn Women for his leadership in furthering the advancement of women. He is the only man to be so honored.

Those interested in reserving this space for special events can submit their requests to Penn Facilities and Real Estate Services.  Usage guidelines and a rental request form can be found on the Campus-wide Open Space website.   

Additional information on Shoemaker Green as part of the Penn Connects campus development plan is available here.