By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The two-year makeover of Dilworth Plaza is finally coming to an end. Officials today announced that the plaza — now renamed Dilworth Park — will reopen right after Labor Day.
The opening is about four months late and about ten percent over budget, but the public will be able to return to the plaza, on the west apron of City Hall, starting on Thursday, September 4th.
Paul Levy of the Center City District, who spearheaded the effort, says those delays were due in part to the underground reconstruction.
“We built over operating train lines with only one (SEPTA) shutdown in the two and a half years,” he notes. “But part of the complexity of the project was putting steel beams over operating trains while having SEPTA operating. We hit old foundations, pipes, duct banks. And when you find a duct bank when you’re excavating, you don’t just cut into it — it could be live, it could be water, it could be power. Those are some of the things that accounted for the delays that we experienced in the project.”
But now the underground work is completed, and Levy says it will be a safer and brighter concourse for commuters.
“We are positioning this as the gateway to the sports complex, the gateway to West Philadelphia, to North Philadelphia, to Temple (University) and to the regional rail system. (It’s) the center of the transit system for the city,” he said.
Access to the concourse level will be through new elevators and stairs.
Only about two-thirds of the park will actually be complete by September 4th, and Levy says the remainder should open by late October.
Dilworth Park will feature lawn areas, a fountain that can be transformed into a skating rink, a café that overlooks the Ben Franklin Parkway run by chef José Garces, an information booth, and space for outdoor concerts and movies.
Levy says those concerts will be small-scale:
“The goal here is not mega events. These are not Parkway-style big events. These are much smaller-scale, intimate performances.”
In fact, the September 4th ribbon cutting will launch three days of activities, with an arts and culture festival on the 4th, a “Picnic in the Park” on the 5th, and kid-friendly activities on Saturday, the 6th.
The project went about $5 million over its original $50-million budget. About one-third of the funding was from a federal transportation grant awarded in 2010. The Center City District will operate the park and is responsible for its cleaning and security.