Ever since the City Toilet on the north end of Dilworth Plaza died a quiet death in 2007, Philadelphians have been on their own when nature calls in Center City. Seasoned pedestrians know better than venturing out absent-mindedly without a mental map of publicly-accessible bathrooms. There’s the Barnes & Noble in Rittenhouse; the Central Library; just about any Trader Joe’s; Starbucks. Thank god for Starbucks.
But aside from George Costanza, we’ve all had to white-knuckle it at some point.
New York, though, has made huge strides in its bathroom-related technology. They’ve crowd-sourced potty map. They have ample listings on Airpnp (Airbnb for bathrooms only), while there’s an utter lack of participation in Philly. The Big Apple is so spoiled that a few hundred people are now paying $25 a month for private access to penthouse-quality toilets. Read more »
A rendering of Dilworth Park.
I guess “romping” is the word for what children were doing on the first day I visited the revamped Dilworth Plaza. Maybe “gamboling.” “Frolicking”? Some were frolicking. There are many words to choose from in the 10-pound thesaurus I recently scored at a used bookstore. Point is, they were having serious fun as they ran through jets of water, adults watching from multicolored cafe chairs. At one point, I saw an African-American kid, an Asian kid and a Latina kid invent a game together. I wouldn’t have been surprised if John Lennon had popped out from behind the puffy clouds to sing “Imagine.”
Not only that — people were reading the new informational panels. They were strolling to the “cafe.” They were chatting in areas that’ll be green space this time next year, and they were walking on pathways that they’ll be able to glide along in ice skates just months from now.
To say this is not the Dilworth Plaza I’m familiar with, as a native Philadelphian, is an understatement.
I turned to my companion and said, “I know there will be naysayers, but I won’t hear a word against it.”
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On Monday, we ran an article citing some objections to City Hall’s new Dilworth Park, most notably from Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron and Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky. We titled that article “Everybody Hates Dilworth Park.” And what we’ve learned since is that the new park has plenty of boosters and defenders. Below, a selection of reader responses.
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UPDATE 9/9/2014: OK, OK. So not everybody hates Dilworth Park.
Well, the redesign of City Hall’s Dilworth Plaza debuted last week as the $55 million Dilworth Park, with all of the political blowhard speeches, self-back patting and pompous fanfare that you’d imagine with such an event in Philadelphia. But make no mistake about it: Everybody hates Dilworth Park. Read more »
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.”
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A detail of life as we will soon know it.
For a Philadelphia space that was established by William Penn as the center of the city, Dilworth Plaza’s new incarnation — at least as seen in renderings — has always seemed rather futuristic. And in advance of today’s press conference (more about that here), the Center City District, which has a 30-year lease on the space, heralded the project’s more forward-leaning aspects, such as the “11,600-square-foot computer-programmable fountain fed with recycled rainwater.”
But it’s all happening (as Penny Lane would say), and it’s happening now. Lest you think the rainwater business is the equivalent of realtor-speak (“rainforest shower” for a completely normal bathroom), this emphasis on sustainability is important to all involved. Nutter has said, from the beginning of his mayoralty, that he was going to focus on making Philly a green city; and the project’s design and construction firms — KieranTimberlake, OLIN, Urban Engineers, Gilbane Building Company and Daniel J. Keating Company — all have experience and commitment to sustainable design and/or building.
That’s partly the reason the name is changing: from Dilworth Plaza to Dilworth Park, to emphasize things like its tree groves and flower beds, and perhaps to encourage residents to see it as green space. (Some of the greenest elements of it won’t be done until October, though, including, according to CCD, the lawns and walkways to South Penn Square.)
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An artist’s rendering of the Dilworth Park lawn.
The newly renovated and re-christened Dilworth Park will re-open September 4th with three days of celebrations to inaugurate the $55 million makeover of the once-drab space on the west side of City Hall.
Paul Levy, director of the Center City District, described the renovations during a Tuesday morning press conference across the street from the plaza. The aim, he said, was to create a “link space” that connects the Avenue of the Arts on the south to the remodeled Pennsylvania Convention Center on the east to Temple University to the north to University City on the west — in other words, to make Dilworth the city center, both from a transit perspective and “life of the city” perspective.
Levy said Center City officials have been in talks with City Hall about renaming the property from “Dilworth Plaza” to “Dilworth Park.”
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Dilworth Plaza — once an ugly, gray expanse of concrete that was as miserable a piece of urban public-space design as any in Philadelphia — will re-open in September, unveiling its renovations in a three-day celebration.
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NewsWorks reports: “The area on the West Side of Philadelphia City Hall will remain under construction for at least 10 more months. Renovations to Dilworth Plaza were supposed to be finished by the spring of 2014, but Paul Levy of the Center City District says Labor Day is the earliest you will see the project done.”
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