Sister Cities get new life on Parkway

A new foun­tain will pay trib­ute to Philly’s ‘Sis­ter Cit­ies’ in $20.9 mil­lion Park­way over­haul

Come 2012, Sis­ter Cit­ies Plaza, loc­ated at 18th Street and the Ben­jamin Frank­lin Park­way in front of the Cathed­ral Ba­silica of Sts. Peter and Paul, will be a massive nat­ur­al play place, with a chil­dren’s “dis­cov­ery garden,” a toy boat pond and an im­press­ive new foun­tain.

It’s all part of the city’s $20.9 mil­lion makeover of the Park­way, which has been un­der way for some time us­ing funds through six fund­ing sources, in­clud­ing more than $7 mil­lion each from the city and the state, and at least eight grants.

Dur­ing a present­a­tion held Tues­day, May 10, city of­fi­cials, joined by former Gov. Ed Rendell, un­veiled designs for a $4.6 mil­lion renov­a­tion pro­ject at the two acre Sis­ter Cit­ies Plaza.

The pro­ject should be com­plete by the be­gin­ning of 2012.

Paul Levy, pres­id­ent of the Cen­ter City Dis­trict, led the present­a­tion, dis­cuss­ing many of the new ele­ments that will be built in­to the park.

In a pro­ject de­signed by Phil­adelphia-based com­pan­ies Dig­sau and Stu­dio Bry­an Hanes, there will be an in­door-out­door caf&ea­cute; and a chil­dren’s dis­cov­ery garden, which will host present­a­tions from the Academy of Nat­ur­al Sci­ences and will con­tain rocks, plants and nat­ur­al fea­tures that will en­cour­age nat­ur­al play as well as a pond for sail­ing toy boats.

In or­der to re­cog­nize the park’s des­ig­na­tion as Sis­ter Cit­ies Plaza, in the cen­ter of the park there will be a new foun­tain with one large jet of wa­ter at the cen­ter and oth­er jets situ­ated around the cen­ter jet.

Levy said the jets will be ar­ranged in such a way that the middle jet will rep­res­ent Phil­adelphia, then around the cen­ter jet and placed pro­por­tion­ately to its re­spect­ive dis­tance from the city, there will be a wa­ter jet for each of Philly’s 10 sis­ter cit­ies.

“Be­cause we are the cen­ter of the uni­verse,” joked Levy.

The jets — one for Florence, Italy; Tel Aviv, Is­rael; Torun, Po­land; Tianjin, China; Incheon, South Korea; Dou­ala, Cameroon; Nizhny Novgorod, Rus­sia; Kobe, Ja­pan; Aix-en-Provence, France; and Ab­ruzzo, Italy — will be sized spe­cific­ally to shoot a jet of wa­ter rep­res­ent­at­ive of the size of each city’s pop­u­la­tion.

The smal­ler the city’s pop­u­la­tion, the smal­ler the foun­tain of wa­ter.

“When it’s fin­ished, I think, the Ben Frank­lin Park­way will be the most im­press­ive street in the world,” former Gov. Rendell told the gathered audi­ence. “There will be noth­ing like the Park­way for its beauty…There will be noth­ing else like it in the world.”

May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter, who stood si­lently for much of the un­veil­ing, tak­ing in the warm, spring day, said not only did he ap­prove of the plans for the park, but he simply en­joyed the time he spent be­ing in the park that day. 

“As much as I love parks, I don’t of­ten get the op­por­tun­ity to stand in one,” he said.

The pro­ject, Levy said, would be a com­plete over­haul for the park, which at some point in the 1800s had served as a grave­yard.

At that time, he said the 2-acre park served as something of a “Pot­ter’s Field,” a term for a buri­al ground of un­known people or those too poor to af­ford a buri­al.

While no hu­man re­mains were found dur­ing an ar­che­olo­gic­al study of the park — done in pre­par­a­tion for this new renov­a­tion — Levy said there were a few ar­ti­facts un­covered and there will be in­form­a­tion about these items pos­ted, he be­lieved, in the chil­dren’s dis­cov­ery garden.

“We found every bottle you can think of from the 1800s,” said Levy. “We are go­ing to tell the his­tory of this site.”

While the pro­ject at Sis­ter Cit­ies Plaza is the most re­cent to be un­der­taken, will be a num­ber of pro­jects to be com­pleted through the $20.9 mil­lion Ben Frank­lin Park­way renov­a­tion.

Along with this, there will be a ma­jor renov­a­tion of the block around the Rod­in Mu­seum on the Park­way.

This is sched­uled for com­ple­tion in Ju­ly.

Also, at areas along the Park­way, lanes are be­ing shif­ted to al­low widen­ing of the cen­ter is­lands, in or­der to make walk­ing the Park­way easi­er for ped­es­tri­ans.

Between the 2100 and 2200 blocks of the Park­way, there will be a new bike lane ad­ded and new trees planted as well. 



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