Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dilworth Plaza a Go

I'm glad to see this is actually moving forward, and while I don't think it's the best design or the best use of $50M, I don't think it's all bad. I doubt anyone will be regretting this decision 5 or 10 years from now. However architecture and cleanliness won't be the biggest hurdle, tacking the homeless will. I think Love Park and Dilworth Plaza became the dilapidated Hooverville's that they are because they were surrounded by nothing for years, not because they are simply public spaces.

It may be silly to think that buzz words like "cafe" actually mean anything, but an element of street level commerce will excite people. It won't draw the residents from their fortresses at the Ritz or the Phoenix anymore than Barnes and Noble pulls them out of 10 Rittenhouse Square, but it will grab the commuters who'd rather grab a coffee and a muffin street-side instead of in the SEPTA catacombs.

It's true City Hall itself wasn't designed to be a public space but it doesn't mean the surrounding area can never succeed as one. If that were the case we might as well put the Arcade Building and Broad Street Station back on top of Dilworth Plaza because any other project would be doomed from the start.

Many Negadelphians would assume that any public project is inevitably doomed. But the truth of the matter is that this space is surrounded by new development and renovated public spaces. The Convention Center is going to be pulling people north of Market Street, new museums are pulling tourists across Broad Street, and all of them will be passing through the most important piece of Philadelphia's architectural portfolio.

It's stubborn to propose that this space isn't due some attention, and it's naive to assume that no one will enjoy it. We don't all get in our cars and hop on 676 at 5pm to run from urbanity as fast as we can. Some of the less cranky commuters might stick around if our most important public spaces didn't smell so bad.

Dilworth Plaza Makeover to Start - Philly.com

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