By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia city councilman says Mayor Nutter’s plan to give Love Park a total makeover should include some space for skateboarders.
The mayor plans to sell the parking garage underneath Love Park (see related story), and also renovate the park itself.
At a City Council hearing today on the sale, Councilman Jim Kenney suggested that the renovation include a section for skateboarders, who once flocked to Love Park from around the world.
“If there was some possible way of putting that back with that element, with the Love statue and the iconic nature of that space, and the (skate)boarders back in a safe manner, I think it would be a home run,” Kenney said.
In response, Philadelphia parks and recreation commissioner Mike DiBerardinis promised to consider the idea. But he pointed out to Kenney that the city and state just spent $4.7 million last year to open a skatepark at Paine’s Park, on the banks of the Schuylkill River near the Art Museum.
“Part of the thinking (for the new skatepark) was to really provide that opportunity in a high quality way to the broad skateboarding interest in the city,” Di Berardinis said.
But Kenney countered that returning skateboarding to Love Park would raise the city’s global image.
“If you put the Love statue and skateboarding back together, it’s where the international skateboard community wants to be photographed in Philadelphia: at that statue. I’m too old to figure out why, but it’s just amazing that that’s where people want to be,” Kenney said.
Kenney’s idea might also conflict with the desire of Council president Darrell Clarke to bring new restaurants to Love Park (see related story). Clarke and Mayor Nutter last week signed a deal in which the mayor commits to setting aside a portion of the park for concessions (related story), as well as new greenspace.
After the debate, the Council committee gave initial approval of the sale of the parking garage under Love Park to a Chicago firm called Interpark. That company will pay the city nearly $30 million and will use its own money to renovate the garage, and will also oversee the renovation of Love Park using $16 million of city money.