Dilworth Plaza makeover gets final approval

Plans to turn Dilworth Plaza into a greener, more pedestrian-friendly public space moved forward yesterday as the city’s zoning board approved the designs, clearing the way for construction.

The $50 million project will create one level on the west side of City Hall and add grass, a sprinkler fountain that will be converted to an ice rink in the winter, an outdoor cafe and large glass entrances with elevators leading into the SEPTA system. Construction is expected to begin in the fall and be completed by spring of 2014.

Designed in the 1960s and named after former mayor Richardson Dilworth, the plaza has been a gathering spot for skateboarders and homeless residents in recent years, but the changes are expected to make it much more inviting to the general public, said Paul Levy, of Center City District, the project developer.

“I think people from the office district will routinely flock there. For people at the Residences at the Ritz, this’ll be their front yard, and people coming from the Convention Center on Broad Street can walk right towards this,” Levy said.

The new plaza is expected to host concerts and other events, Levy said. No operators have been selected for the cafe yet. The plaza’s transformation will take place around the same time as planned changes at LOVE Park to make it more pedestrian-friendly.

The project has received local, state and federal funding, but officials still need $9 million to complete the work.

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