By: Vanessa Maria and Scott Marlowe
The City’s renovations plans for the transformation of Dillworth Plaza were revealed at a special presentation at City Hall inside a courtroom, filled with over 100 Occupy Philly protesters this Friday as part of the events of Philly Design Week. The center city plaza, which currently serves as Occupy Philly’s main site, is home to over 400 homeless residents and will soon be cleared out to proceed with plans to renovate starting November 15.
The project, which largely flew under the radar since it started being planned in 2006, is under scrutiny from the occupy community which has emerged as the unofficial protectors of Dillworth Plaza. The plaza is being transformed “because the city lacks the resources to maintain it” said presenter, Richard Levy, Executive Director of the Center City District (CCD) and “to increase accessibility to public transit.”
The presentation included a historical overview of the City Hall site as well as visual design models for the $50 million renovation project. A timeline of the project revealed its slated to begin mid-November and is scheduled for completion in early 2014.
The funding to renovate the new public park and ice skating rink will largely come from a federal stimulus grant, the CCD, Septa, and $5 million from the city’s capital fund. According to Levy, Dillworth Plaza renovations will create 500-700 temporary union construction jobs, and a measly 20 full time jobs once the project is completed.
The new plaza, billed as a public transit transformation, will consist of 2 glass head houses, elevators, a mini park, cafe, a fountain and colored light/steam art display, and an ice skating rink in the winter time. The idea is to facilitate better structures for public transportation and to update the aesthetics of the public space through the use more modern and innovative designs.
After the presentation, attendees were invited to ask questions to the panel, consisting of representatives from the two design firms involved in the planning of this project and Richard Levy of the CCD. Many individuals expressed appreciation for the innovative design aspects of the project, however, the conversation was dominated with several serious concerns, including the consequences of displacing the homeless during 27 months of construction and the allocation of the taxpayer dollars to a non-essential city project during a time of intense budget cuts mostly targeted at education and community programming.