Dilworth Plaza to Reopen With 3 Days of Celebrations, Jose Garces

Jose Garces will operate a new cafe at the north end of revamped park.


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.”

Beyond opening weekend, the district — which is managing the space under a 20-year lease from the city — plans to fill the park with activities so that it is a constant attraction to Philadelphians and tourists: Movies, beer gardens, small concerts, and more. Levy noted that Center City District is already scheduling 115 events a year at nearby Sister Cities Park.

“We will program this with that level of intensity,” he said, “so there will always be activity in the park.”

The renovations have been widely described before, but to recap:

• The underground “maze” of transit connections has been overhauled so that there’s a single walkway — no dark corners hiding danger — connecting the Broad Street Line, the Market-Frankford Line and trolleys. New elevators will make the transit levels fully accessible for the first time.

• Above ground there are two glass “headhouses” to let natural light into the transit areas. There is also a large lawn, tree groves, a programmable fountain, and space for 400 benches and chairs. During the winter, there will be a public skating rink.

“There are lots of intimate-scale performance areas throughout the site,” Levy said.

A brochure advertising the new José Garces cafe at Dilworth Park.

A brochure advertising the new José Garces cafe at Dilworth Park.

Perhaps the biggest surprise on Tuesday: The announcement that celebrity chef José Garces will operate a Rosa Blanca cafe on the north end of the park. It will be open at 7 a.m. for breakfast, and be open through the day selling sandwiches and pastries. The cafe will also have a liquor license, serving only after 5 p.m. and on weekends.

As for the opening weekend:

• Mayor Nutter will cut the ribbon to the park at 11 a.m. September 4th, in an event sponsored by Comcast.

• American Express will sponsor the next day’s event, “Picnic in the Park.”

• And KidsInCenterCity.com will present Saturday’s “Playtime in the Park” events.

Throughout the fall, there will be activities most nights: Movies on Tuesdays, concerts on Wednesday afternoons, pop-up markets and DJs on Thursdays, and more music events on Fridays and Saturdays at noon. Octoberfest — featuring a beer garden — is also planned for the late fall.

Almost all the events feature corporate sponsorship: There will be no shortage of big business branding on all that free entertainment. “As the project became more real … a lot of people came to us” to sponsor events, Levy said.

Only about 85 percent of the park will open during the inugural weekend, Levy said. The lawn and walkways to “South Penn Square” should be complete in October.

Center City District, he said, will maintain a heavy presence on the site, cleaning and power-washing constantly through the daylight hours, providing easy-to-access customer service representatives, and employing widespread video surveillance to ensure the public’s safety.

The state put up $16.35 million of the renovation costs, followed by the Center City District and Federal Transit Administration with $15 million each. The city contributed $5.75 million, and SEPTA gave $4.3 million. A number of private donors also donated toward construction costs.

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