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Tussling Over Love Park Plan as City Council OKs Sale of Underground Garage

(File photo: Philadelphia City Council president Darrell Clarke speaks to reporters in City Hall.  Photo by Mike Dunn)

(File photo: Philadelphia City Council president Darrell Clarke speaks to reporters in City Hall. 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) — City Council today gave final approval to Mayor Nutter’s plan to sell the parking garage underneath JFK Plaza (commonly known as Love Park).

But the Council president is voicing opposition to letting skateboarders back in the park itself once it gets a makeover.

Councilmembers today signed off on the mayor’s proposal to sell the JFK Plaza underground garage, and then renovate Love Park itself.  Council president Darrell Clarke says the next step will be a schedule of public hearings so residents can give their thoughts on the future design of the park.

“We will be developing a team of individuals that will establish a process that will allow us to have public input,” Clarke told KYW Newsradio today, “and then we will look toward a design process based on that public input.”

The announcement of public hearings, Clarke said, may come next week:

“We want to make sure that people have an opportunity to give their input on that ultimate design.  And I think we’ll end up with something very special.”

Last month, at committee hearings on the garage sale, Councilman Jim Kenney said some of the Love Park makeover should include space for skateboarding, to boost the city’s global image (see related story).

Clarke says he opposes Kenney’s idea, given that the city just last year opened a $4.7-million skateboard park on the banks of the Schuylkill River, at Paine’s Park (see related story).

“Because Councilman Kenney announced that at a public hearing, I anticipate that there will be a number of skateboard advocates at the public hearing,” Clarke says.  “And we will be more than willing to let them give their input as to the final outcome of the park.”

(Dunn:)  “But you personally are opposed?”

(Clarke:)  “Personally, I don’t think the skateboarders should be there (in the park).”

(Dunn:)  “Why?”

(Clarke:)  “It was an agreement that we did several years ago, that we would build a skateboard park.  It was designed and partially funded by the skateboard organizations.  And my understanding is that they are quite happy with that location.”

Under the deal approved by City Council, a Chicago firm called Interpark will pay the city nearly $30 million for the garage, will use its own money to renovate the garage, and will oversee the renovation of Love Park using $16 million of city money.  The city will continue to own the park.

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