A Pizza Hut in Rittenhouse Square?

Daring to dream big thanks to park privatization.

“I think the entire government should be privatized. Chuck E. Cheese could run the parks. Everything operated by tokens. Drop in a token, go on the swingset. Drop in another token, take a walk. Drop in a token, look at a duck.” – Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation

Park privatization isn’t just a fantasy of Parks and Recreation’s outdoorsy libertarian. With the economy struggling, it’s everywhere! California is soliciting bids from concessionaires. A Colorado lawmaker wants to privatize its fourteeners. (Its fourteeners!) They’re even considering park privatization in Canada. And, yes, just over the Delaware River, New Jersey wants to privatize parts of the state park system.

The opponents of New Jersey’s park privatization believe it will lead to Ferris wheels, chain restaurants and flea markets in their state’s beloved public parks. The plan’s supporters say that won’t happen, which is disappointing. Who doesn’t want more flea markets, Ferris wheels and chain restaurants? Paulie and Christopher wouldn’t have gotten lost in the Pine Barrens if there were an Uncle Bill’s Pancake House in the middle of them.

It’s only a matter of time before Philadelphia takes this idea and implements a half-assed version of it. As an abuse of my power as a blogger for this fine website, I’d like to list my suggestions for the parks should Philadelphia go down the same path of privatization.

Rittenhouse Square: We spent nine long years without an IHOP in Center City until one opened at Juniper and Walnut in 2009. But downtown is minus an even more important chain restaurant ever since the Pizza Hut in Penn Center closed. A Pizza Hut in Rittenhouse would provide more ambiance than one underground, and where else can one get a small pizza just for reading four books?

If Yum! Brands doesn’t go for this idea, maybe they could keep it public and just station cop cars outside of the entrances to make it feel more welcoming.

Logan Circle: Forget Manayunk. The best place to watch the bike race is right at 20th and the Parkway. At least once a race, the cyclists will misjudge the sharpness of the turn around the circle and a bunch of them will crash. It’s obviously impractical to hold a bicycle race every day, so what they should do instead is close off the inner lane around the circle and hold roller derby every day.

Kahn Park: This should be where swingers meet up, or maybe lovers of concrete and brutalism.

Washington Square: The National Park Service took over ownership of this park in 2005, but there’s no reason we can’t take it back and give it to a private company! (Note to editor: Don’t bother to look into if this is true.) Here’s the deal: Washington Square only has the world’s most pathetic fountain and a now-dead tree planted from a seed taken to the moon, while Franklin Square has a ton of cool stuff. Unfortunately, it’s surrounded by highways and the police station. Private companies will come in and switch the two parks overnight, putting the cool stuff much closer to everyone. Or at least much closer to my apartment.

Triangle Park (South Philly): A private company will move in and rename it Trapezoid Park, because that’s what it’s shaped like.

Walton Run: Ha, you don’t even know what this is. I didn’t, either, even though I grew up about 300 meters from it. It’s in the Far Northeast, between Franklin Mills and the Northeast Airport. A few years ago the city put up a sign that said “Walton Run.” Anyway, whatever, this can be a casino or something.

Fairmount Park: This is kind of a ridiculous idea, I know, but maybe they could build a concrete park surrounded by enclosures and cages and we could put exotic animals in them.

Belmont Plateau: Hmm, is there a way to make money from the one of the top cross country courses on the east coast? I’ve thought about it, I think this is one park we can’t privatize. Instead, they should hire a former high school cross country runner who still really enjoys this course, say, 12 years later and could suggest minor improvements to the trails. He would be paid handsomely by the public sector, of course.