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Nutter, Clarke Compromise on Funding For Love Park Renovation

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(City officials gather in front of the iconic Robert Indiana "Love" sculpture to announce an agreement on funding for the proposed renovation of JFK Plaza, commonly known as Love Park.  Photo by Mike Dunn)

(City officials gather in front of the iconic Robert Indiana “Love” sculpture to announce an agreement on funding for the proposed renovation of JFK Plaza, commonly known as Love Park. Photo by Mike Dunn)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Mayor Nutter and City Council president Darrell Clarke have reached a deal that appears, at least for now, to settle their differing plans for remaking Love Park.

The mayor had proposed selling the garage beneath Love Park, at 15th and JFK Boulevard, and then using $16 million of city money to renovate the park itself.

Council president Clarke proposed turning much of the park over to new restaurants, with money from those leases paying for the renovation instead of taxpayer dollars.

Now, the two have compromised:  Clarke agreed to let the sale of the garage move forward in City Council, while the mayor agrees to dedicate some portion of the park for “concessions” to support the park.

“The opportunity to lower the ultimate taxpayer cost, supplanted either by corporate philanthropic (money) or some amount of revenue generation at the site — that combination is just a good idea,” said Nutter.

Clarke hopes the end result will be world-class.

“No longer will people have to talk about Bryant Park in New York or York Park in London.  They’re going to be talking about Love Park in the city of Philadelphia,” he said today.

The agreement includes getting a private foundation to pay for a study on ideas for revenue generation at Love Park,  and a vow to minimize the taxpayer’s cost of the park makeover.

After signing the agreement, Nutter seemed to readily embrace Clarke’s restaurant idea.

“I can’t imagine that this won’t be a premiere eating site,” Nutter said.  “Somebody’s going to want to put a pretty decent dining facility right here.”

Under the mayor’s original plan to sell the garage, a bid of nearly $30 million from a Chicago firm called Interpark was chosen under a process that began in the summer.   The firm would be responsible for renovating the garage with its own money, and would oversee the renovation of Love Park.  The city would retain ownership of the park.

Under Clarke’s proposal, unveiled last month, upwards of 26,000 square feet of Love Park would be set aside for restaurants, both indoor and outdoor.

The sale of the garage will be debated by a City Council committee later this month.

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