PlanPhilly

LOVE Park renovation breaks ground, skateboarding ban temporarily lifted

LOVE Park’s long-anticipated renovation was celebrated Wednesday morning with a ceremonial groundbreaking, and an announcement that the city would lift the park’s skateboarding ban through Presidents’ Day.

“Between now and February 15th we’re going to lift the ban on skating here and allow folks to come back and experience this place one more time before it goes under construction,” said Mayor Jim Kenney, acknowledging LOVE Park’s important place in the hearts of skateboarders worldwide. “Come back for one more spin on your board.”

Kenney gave credit for the idea to Jesse Rendell, Ed Rendell’s son, a lawyer and avid skater affiliated with Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund.

The future LOVE Park won’t welcome skateboarding, but the hope is that it will thrive as a new civic heart in Center City, creating a better link to the Parkway and complementing the new Dilworth Park at City Hall.

“It’s a Center City park, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s a place for all citizens, all citizens, from all over the city to come and gather, to protest, to celebrate, to come in times of trouble and in times of joy. It has that special place in the life of the city,” said Managing Director Mike DiBerardinis to the small crowd stuffed into the Fairmount Park Welcome Center. “It really is a significant public space and it deserves the attention and the resources that we’re putting into it now.”

    • LOVE Park groundbreaking, February 2016
      LOVE Park groundbreaking, February 2016

The city sold the garage below JFK Plaza / LOVE Park to Interpark in 2014. The impetus for the park project was actually born from the need to peel back the park to waterproof the leaky garage roof below. That presented an opportunity to rethink the mid-century plaza on top and make the garage ADA accessible. That opportunity also prompted public conversations about what LOVE Park should become, including a proposal from Council President Darrell Clarke for a heavy presence of revenue-generating uses. So Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and the Fairmount Park Conservancy embarked on deeper conversations with City Council, a civic engagement process, and economic study to inform the design team led by Hargreaves Associates.

“It’s a project about public-private partnership. It’s a project about political will and vision. It’s a project about public participation. It’s a project about making a place more civic, more democratic, more open, more welcoming,” said Mary Margaret Jones, principal at Hargreaves. “The process was not just our design process, it was yours.”

In the coming weeks more of LOVE Park will be fenced off and its surfaces peeled away. Robert Indiana’s sculpture will be moved and conserved and the old granite pavers will be salvaged for reuse (including in skateparks across the city), making way for repairs and waterproofing of the garage roof. The new park is expected to open in spring 2017. The combined cost of renovating the park and the saucer-shaped Fairmount Park Welcome Center is $16.5 million.

“I hope today’s groundbreaking is the first of many as we make bold plans to invest in parks and recreation facilities across the city,” said Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, who began work on this project in her tenure as director of the Fairmount Park Conservancy.

Click through to see designs for the new LOVE Park:

    • Rendering of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza from Parkway, October 2015 | Hargreaves
      Rendering of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza from Parkway, October 2015 | Hargreaves
    • Rendering of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza from City Hall, October 2015 | Hargreaves
      Rendering of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza from City Hall, October 2015 | Hargreaves
    • Plan of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza, October 2015 | Hargreaves
      Plan of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza, October 2015 | Hargreaves
    • View of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza from balcony, October 2015 | Hargreaves
      View of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza from balcony, October 2015 | Hargreaves
    • View of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza from 15th and JFK, October 2015 | Hargreaves
      View of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza from 15th and JFK, October 2015 | Hargreaves
    • View of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza from 16th and Arch, October 2015 | Hargreaves
      View of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza from 16th and Arch, October 2015 | Hargreaves
    • Rendering of the renovated Welcome Center showing the proposed ceiling artwork | Kieran Timberlake
      Rendering of the renovated Welcome Center showing the proposed ceiling artwork | Kieran Timberlake
    • Rendering of Welcome Center seating terrace | Kieran Timberlake
      Rendering of Welcome Center seating terrace | Kieran Timberlake
    • Rendering of Welcome Center from the lawn | Kieran Timberlake
      Rendering of Welcome Center from the lawn | Kieran Timberlake
    • Glass cube
      Glass cube "CarPark" headhouse for garage elevators | Kieran Timberlake
    • Plan of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza, October 2015 | Hargreaves
      Plan of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza, October 2015 | Hargreaves
    • Tree Plan of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza, October 2015 | Hargreaves
      Tree Plan of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza, October 2015 | Hargreaves
    • South Garden planting plan of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza, October 2015 | Hargreaves
      South Garden planting plan of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza, October 2015 | Hargreaves
    • Rain Garden planting plan of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza, October 2015 | Hargreaves
      Rain Garden planting plan of LOVE Park / JFK Plaza, October 2015 | Hargreaves
    • Garden Plan, LOVE Park / JFK Plaza, October 2015 | Hargreaves
      Garden Plan, LOVE Park / JFK Plaza, October 2015 | Hargreaves
    • Furnishings / Fixtures, LOVE Park / JFK Plaza, October 2015 | Hargreaves
      Furnishings / Fixtures, LOVE Park / JFK Plaza, October 2015 | Hargreaves
    • Arch Street planter plan, LOVE Park / JFK Plaza, October 2015 | Hargreaves
      Arch Street planter plan, LOVE Park / JFK Plaza, October 2015 | Hargreaves
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About the author

Ashley Hahn, Contributor

Ashley Hahn started Eyes on the Street for PlanPhilly in 2011 and was PlanPhilly's managing editor from September 2015 until July 2017. She is interested in preservation, neighborhoods, and all things public – from policy to art. She holds masters degrees in City and Regional Planning and Historic Preservation from PennDesign. Ashley has lived in 12 zip codes that she can think of, including neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, New York and Philadelphia. She is proud to call 19147 home. 

Contact Ashley via email or find her on twitter: @ashleyjhahn.



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