By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Mayor Michael Nutter is moving ahead with plans to sell the parking garage underneath Love Park. And that, in turn, will jump-start his plans to renovate the park itself.
The Nutter Administration on Wednesday issued what’s called a ‘Request For Qualifications,’ or RFQ, to find companies that might be interested in buying the parking garage underneath Love Park. Budget Director Rebecca Rhynhart says while the city currently gets about a million dollars a year in revenue from the garage, there’s little reason for it to be in the garage business.
“It’s not a core part of government operations,” Rhynhart said. “It was apparent that over time it made much more sense financially to sell the garage than to continue to own it and get that million or so dollars a year.”
Under the mayor’s plan, whatever firm buys the garage will be responsible for renovating the garage with its own money. In addition, the buyer will have to oversee the renovation of Love Park itself, using $16.5 million of city money.
“The winning bidder for the sale of the Love Park garage will be responsible for managing the renovation of Love Park. So not only are we looking for an entity to purchase the garage, we’re looking for an entity that has experience in large-scale construction projects as well,” says Rhynhart.
Love Park has been renovated before and remains popular among tourists, office workers on lunch break, and of course skateboarders. But most agree the site is downright ugly and needs a makeover.
“We want to make it more accessible to the public, remove the high walls around the park, and do a very nice renovation to a park that’s in the center of the city,” says Rhynhart.
She stresses that the city will continue to own the park and will have final say in the design.
“The city will retain ownership to Love Park. Nothing changes about that. We also retain design approval over the Love Park renovation, which we’ll get significant public input on during calendar year 2014.”
Rhynhart would not speculate on how much money the garage could sell for, other than to say it would be “at least” in the tens of millions. Officials hope to complete the sale of the garage by early 2014, and to have the newly remade park complete by the end of 2015.
The iconic Love statue will remain in the park once the work is complete, though Rhynhart is uncertain where it might be placed while the renovation is in progress.