Park revamps Philly city center
PHILADELPHIA — William Penn — the one in bronze — might be standing a little taller this week from his perch atop Philadelphia’s mammoth City Hall.
A bleak, maze-like plaza of granite and concrete in the shadow of the ornate stone-and-brick structure — the country’s largest municipal building — has undergone a $55 million transformation that officials say is more in line with the city founder’s original vision for the square.
Dilworth Plaza is becoming the 120,000-square-foot Dilworth Park, complete with a great lawn, groves of trees, a programmable water fountain, an upscale cafe and what in the winter will become an ice rink. Officials hope the transformation will make the area around City Hall, which sits in a traffic circle of sorts in the intersection of the city’s two main thoroughfares, Market and Broad streets, an attractive gathering place instead of a homeless hangout.
A ribbon-cutting on Thursday will kick off a series of weekend events, signaling the start of a regular program of activities. Dilworth will host picnics, dance parties, concerts, movie screenings and pop-up boutiques. Next month, an Octoberfest beer garden will pop up.
Paul Levy, chief executive of the private business improvement district, which managed the project, said the plaza was long seen as a “failed public space,” a well-intentioned effort that was typical of design at the time.
City officials hope the park will increase the number of people touring City Hall, with 700 rooms and over 250 sculptures by Alexander Milne Calder.
Steve Ricchini, a newsstand operator across from the park, said he hopes it becomes a major draw, but said its success hinges on how the city manages the homeless who used to stay in the plaza.
“It looks great so far,” Ricchini said. “Only time will tell. It all depends on what kind of security they have over there.”
The park is not completed. Delays because of a severe winter means the lawn and walkways won’t be finished until October.