The long planned, and long awaited, redevelopment plan for LOVE Park/JFK Plaza, at 15th Street and JFK Boulevard, was revealed at a recent public meeting at the Free Library Central Branch. The plan is the result of multiple public meetings and a public comment process and designed by several professional firms, led by Kieran Timberlake and Hargreaves and Associates. The City’s Department of Parks and Recreation is leading the redevelopment effort with help from community groups Center City District and Fairmount Park Conservancy. The redevelopment of the park became necessary when the City decided that the parking garage underneath the park needed to be rebuilt.
The plan will have four important elements that the public demanded in the public input process. The first element is that the redesign plan will definitely save the round building in the southwest corner of the park. The round building, often referred to as “The Saucer”, was built in the 1950s as the city’s visitor’s center and is currently used as the Fairmount Park Visitor’s Center. It was built a few years before the park and does not have any of the parking garage underneath it. Many city residents wanted to save the unique building and even had a petition to demand it be part of the final design. The plan for the park calls for renovating the building with new exterior windows. Inside, there will be visitor info and a small café, likely with some outdoor seating on the surrounding patio.
Another element is to make the park greener, with more trees and a lawn that can fit up to 2,000 people for public events, such as concerts. The third element for the new design is to save the large fountain behind the famous “LOVE Sign”. The fountain would be rebuilt, but would still have jets shooting dozens of feet into the air, with an elliptical basin and plenty of light illuminating the jets at night. The final element is to encourage diagonal movement through the park, which coincides with the Parkway’s diagonal layout. The newly redesigned park will have few walls, so as to allow for easier access and that diagonal movement. The final design could have food trucks and seating along Arch Street, which will also have the ramp into the underground garage. The final design will have some electronic graphics and may also have a tribute to President John F. Kennedy, for whom the plaza was originally named after. A public art competition is underway for additional works of art, with a $230,000 budget.
This plan is the “final conceptual design” and should go to the Art Commission for approval in September. There have been no decisions yet on the finishes and materials for the redevelopment. The construction would begin in 2016 and finish 12 to 16 months later.
By, Gabriel Gottlieb