Beyond the Meudon Gate off the Benjamin Franklin Parkway lies the historic Rodin Museum, but the landscape around it lacks personality, pizzazz and perennials.

The city plans to soon change that.

Though announced in July 2008, the city finally broke ground yesterday on the major aspects of a project to improve the Ben Franklin Parkway. The city plans to add gardens, paths and trees to the museum's front yard and other spots along the Parkway.

"Already the Parkway is a beautiful place, but these investments will elevate it to one of the most unique and cherished public spaces in all of America,"said Michael DiBerardinis, commissioner of the city's parks and recreation department.

Since 2008, the city has introduced new lights and road signs to the Parkway, and work will begin on eight other pieces of the project over the next two years. The project mirrors suggestions made in the Daily News' Rethinking Philadelphia series in 2004.

DiBerardinis said the first project will add trees and flowers alongside brick-paved Parkway sidewalks, enhancing the path connecting Fairmount Park and City Hall.

By the fall, the city plans to shift the inner lanes on the Parkway to fit a wider center island, as well as narrow the outer lanes, turning them into a driving lane, a parking lane and a bike lane.

Center City District President Paul Levy said the $19.1 million that state, city and philanthropists have invested will help bring Philadelphia out of its recession.

"The trees and plants and landscaping are a wonderful backdrop, but none of them make a city," Levy said. "People and buildings make a city. And it's time to start building."

The three renovations that began yesterday are expected to be completed by spring 2011 - just in time for Megan Murphy, 23, who lives in the Park Towne Place apartments on the Parkway, to decide if she wants to renew her lease.

"It's amazing living next to this beautiful, artistic area," she said. "If it gets any better, I might just have to stay in my apartment."