Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: March 8, 2012
Byline: Miriam Hill
LOVE Park renovations expected - Philly.com
LOVE Park, the symbolic heart of the city and a destination for tourists and skateboarders from around the world, is expected to undergo a $20 million renovation starting in 2013.
Mayor Nutter will announce the plans for the iconic park, officially known as John F. Kennedy Plaza, in his budget address Thursday morning, several sources said.
Few details were available Wednesday, but broadly, the proposal calls for bringing the elevated park to street level and removing walls that block entrance from many of the surrounding sidewalks.
Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture would stay, as would the fountain and the Fairmount Park Welcome Center, the building across from Suburban Station that resembles a spaceship.
While the administration has designated funds for the makeover, that money and the overall budget still must be approved by City Council.
Legendary city planner Edmund Bacon dreamed up the original plans for JFK Plaza and the nearby Dilworth and Municipal Services Plazas. Vincent Kling's firm executed Bacon's ideas, which envisioned the three granite plazas as part of a downtown of the future.
Built in 1965, the park was dedicated to President John F. Kennedy in 1967. Indiana's sculpture, where tourists pose for pictures daily, was first placed in the plaza as part of the Bicentennial celebration in 1976.
A Tony Hawk video game that featured LOVE Park lured skateboarders from around the world, but a city crackdown that began about 10 years ago has significantly reduced their presence.
In recent years, food trucks serving gourmet tacos and burgers with elaborate toppings, along with musical performers and a farmers' market in warm weather, have helped turn LOVE Park into a gathering spot for locals as well as tourists.
But the high walls, severe concrete surfaces, and visitors' penchant for leaving trash behind often give the park a creepy, unwelcoming feel.
The city already has renovated much of the Ben Franklin Parkway from the Art Museum to LOVE Park, and it has begun a $50 million overhaul of Dilworth Plaza, a project overseen by the Center City District.
Those makeovers left LOVE Park as a sort of bald spot in Philadelphia's efforts to create a landscaped green swath on the Parkway from City Hall to the Art Museum.
Funds will come from the city's capital budget. The park sits atop an 810-car parking garage that is owned by the city and operated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, a state agency.
The Parking Authority needs to rebuild the aging garage, which will involve razing the surface of LOVE Park, presenting an opportunity to create a new environment. Some City Council members have pushed for the city to sell the garage to raise money, but no decision has been made.