Here’s What People Are Saying About Dilworth Plaza

"It feels like New York."
Renderings are beginning to meet reality.

Renderings are beginning to meet reality.

As you surely know by now, Dilworth Plaza turned into Dilworth Park yesterday. Every media outlet in town turned up for the party, and while they all basically said the same thing (spoiler: they really, really like it), there is something to be said for the sheer volume of coverage.

The Daily News’s Jenny DeHuff might have summed the crowd up best:

Planned for months, yesterday’s ribbon-cutting was a lovefest of who’s who at the local, state and federal levels, as well as the minds and bodies that brought the project to fruition.

At The Inquirer, Chris Hepp and Paul Nussbaum do a great job of reminding us all that this public space has been heavily financed through private dollars.

The project evolved into what [Center City District President Paul] Levy called a “model private-public partnership.”

That partnership is evident in the funding. Major contributors include the state ($16.35 million), the Center City District ($15 million), the Federal Transit Administration ($15 million), the city ($5.75 million), and SEPTA ($4.3 million). The William Penn Foundation provided $1.2 million.

They also captured this rather unfortunate quote from the first visitor through SEPTA’s fancy new turnstiles.

The first customer through the new turnstiles – equipped to handle both existing passes and future “smart cards” – was Lou Hoffer, 30, of Center City.

“It’s fancy,” said Hoffer. “It feels like New York.”

At NewsWorks, Tom MacDonald included the salient point that unlike other parks, Dilworth will be staffed. Center City District President Paul Levy said he expects the staff at Dilworth will “remind [visitors] what the rules of public behavior are.” He also included some interesting back-and-forth between City Council President Darrell Clarke and Center City District President Paul Levy.

City Council President Darrell Clarke joked that, at some points, it looked like the project might never be finished. But he said Paul Levy, president of the Center City District and leader of the project, never gave up.

“You know, we thought it was pretty easy to go along with that because there was no way in the world he was going to get $50 million dollars,” Clarke said. “And we signed off, ‘Yeah, Paul, you got it. We’re there … whatever the city needs to do, we’re on board.’ And, doggone it, this guy pulled it off.”

OLIN partner Richard Roake told CityPaper’s John Hurdle that part of his inspiration was creating a town square for celebrations (assuming we ever get another of those).

“When we won the World Series, everybody assembled around City Hall, but nobody could be in the center of Dilworth Plaza at the heart,” he said. “It wasn’t a place that you could actually assemble, it was a series of spaces.”

So Roark and his colleagues, with extensive input from design professionals and the public, created a space that could become a real town square.

With every news station in town at the opening, there is plenty of ribbon-cutting action around. Monique Braxton was live on the scene for NBC10 and ends her report with an unintentionally dramatic question about renting the new park out for weddings and other events. Pat Ciarrocchi’s report for KYW has video of the first Flyers fan through the new SEPTA turnstiles, and Vernon Odom found people who used nearly every synonym for “great” to talk about the new park for Action News.

Over at Curbed, there’s a roundup of some of the day’s most interesting tweets. (Complete with now-obligatory Philly Jesus sightings.)

The Associated Press covered the opening, meaning people from the Poconos to Pittsburgh are going to be jealous, too. The suburbs got in on the action as well. By our count, people as far away as Jackson, Indiana should be salivating over our new spray park. The A.P.’s Sean Carlin provided some relevant and intriguing history:

Penn’s 1600s vision of “Center Square” as a hub of society, commerce and culture also called for public buildings, but City Hall didn’t go up until about 200 years later. And Dilworth Plaza, named for former Mayor Richardson Dilworth and completed in the late 1970s, soon disappointed.


And, because we’ve been invoking his name left and right, both the Daily News and Inquirer ask the very pertinent question: Who was Richardson Dilworth, anyway?

The DN pursued the question man-on-the-street style, asking people at the shindig if they knew where the park got its name. Our favorite response came from Chip Fattah, Jr. (yes, Rep. Fattah’s son).

“I know a few things, but I don’t know what the name is based off.”

Robert Moran at The Inquirer reminds us that Dilworth won a Purple Heart during WWII and is most well known for revitalizing parts of Colonial Philadelphia like Washington Square and Society Hill. Apparently he also had some ideas we think might go over like a bag of lead today.

Some of his ideas never came to fruition. He foresaw a day when automobile traffic would be banned in Center City. He wanted to see City Hall torn down.

Finally, Allie Volpe at Philly.com has the rundown of the seemingly endless stream of events planned for Dilworth Park through the fall. Who is ready to join us for some Thursday night dancing?

Believe it or not, there’s some other news today too. This way …

Inga Saffron’s take on the evolving Delaware River waterfront [Inquirer]

Philadelphia Affordable Communities Coalition looks to promote ‘development without displacement’ [PlanPhilly]

Jefferson paying $4M to rename Market East Station [Inquirer]