To many residents, the heart of Philly is in LOVE Park
On one side, there’s the art museum (and of course, the Rocky Steps); on the other, the towering, 150-year-old City Hall building. In the middle is the iconic LOVE sculpture. The park is—quite literally—in the midst of many of Philly’s most important and recognizable structures
That could be why a two-year renovation to the park has drawn both excitement, and concern.
A ceremony was held for the park’s reopening Wednesday morning, drawing crowds of eager residents to listen to music, watch dance performances, eat water ice, and—above all—witness their beloved park transformed.
Sixer’s Dunk Squad at the LOVE Park reopening today pic.twitter.com/f1lcz40eZC— Anna Merriman (@Anna_Merriman) May 30, 2018
The renovation project, which broke ground in February of 2016, essentially rearranged much of the landscaping and layout of the park, including the fountain, which used to sit right behind the LOVE sculpture. It has now been pushed back and surrounded by smaller fountains in the ground—not unlike those at Dilworth Park. A parking garage has been installed underneath the park. The circular building at the southwest end of the park, which was once a welcome center, and is often called the “flying saucer”, is still under renovation. It will eventually be turned into a restaurant, Mayor Jim Kenney said Wednesday.
During the ceremony, city officials urged residents to embrace the new park, which Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said could help breathe more life into the city. Her comments and those from other city officials seemed to indirectly address criticism that the renovations have received over recent months.
PlanPhilly wrote about those complaints, mostly from residents concerned about the park losing its uniqueness or green space. In one op-ed on the park, Philly.com’s Ingra Saffron called it a “granite Sahara.” In another, from the Philadelphia Citizen, Diana Lind called it a “graceless plane.”
And those are just some of the kinder critiques.
“As a lifelong Philly girl, I know change is hard for us,” Lovell said when she took the platform to speak about the park Wednesday. “Especially when something you love is transformed.”
She went on to urge Philadelphians not to rush to judgement, but rather to let the park grow on them.
The city’s Managing Director, Michael DiBerardinis imparted a similar sentiment, comparing the park to a “new house.”
“It needs to be lived in,” he said to the crowd.
Despite the prior criticism of the park, many who attended the ceremony Wednesday seemed in high spirits, excited about the fountains, which were turned on after the ceremony, and the celebratory nature of the event.
“I like it,” Malikah Matthews, a lifelong Philly resident said of the park. She was pushing a stroller and waiting for water ice in a line that stretched across the length of the park. That’s part of the appeal, she said—the space.
“There’s room to run around and play.” she added.
There will be room for much more than that. Kenney spoke about the activities coming to the public space during his speech Wednesday, saying that LOVE park will be a space for people from all over the city and the country to visit. In addition to the restaurant in the old welcome center, there will be food trucks and activities like line dancing and “wedding Wednesdays,” according to city officials.
“This is a masterpiece that embodies the Philly spirit,” Kenney said at the ceremony, before reminding residents, “this is your park.”
City Council President Darrell Clark echoed the mayor’s words just before cutting a ribbon in front of the LOVE sculpture, once again reminding Philadelphians that this is a park for them.
“This is your space, and more importantly, this is your city.”
- Photos: Philly’s LOVE sculpture, from 1976 to today [Curbed Philly]
- City announces official opening day for long-awaited LOVE Park [Curbed Philly]
- LOVE Park? More like loathe park! Criticisms mount as JFK Plaza slowly reopens [PlanPhilly]
- LOVE Park was supposed to be the People’s Park. How did it end up as a granite Sahara? [Philly.com]
- Where’s the Love in Love Park? [Philadelphia Citizen]