The Center City District works year-round to ensure that Philadelphia's downtown not only looks welcoming, but also is brighter, safer and more accessible.
Since 2005, the Center City District has steadily increased the scale and complexity of its capital improvements, leveraging significant new investments in the parks and public spaces in Center City from foundation, state, and federal sources. Building from a long-range plan, prepared by the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation in 2003, the CCD has made $16,650,000 in improvements to public spaces on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the 1.1-mile diagonal boulevard connecting the central business district with a collection of cultural and educational institutions culminating with the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the entrance to Fairmount Park.
With the goal of creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment and animating the public spaces in front of the museums and cultural institutions, the CCD installed new vehicular, pedestrian, façade, and monument lighting, as well as signs and new pedestrian crosswalks. In 2007, the CCD renovated Aviator Park, adjacent to the Franklin Institute, making $1.8 million in improvements, including more green space, new signs, improved paved paths, and settings for major sculptures, benches, and lighting.
At Cret Park, 16th Street and the Parkway, $2.33 million in improvements were completed in 2008, including new paving, a granite seating wall at the western point of the park, new benches along the Parkway, 15 new trees, seasonal flowers, a new underground irrigation system, new pedestrian-scale lights, and the 1,200-square-foot Café Cret with outdoor seating.
In early 2012, Chestnut Park, 1707 Chestnut Street, was restored and rededicated as John F. Collins Park after a $500,000 renovation that included conserving the original gates created by artist Christopher T. Ray, rehabilitation of the fountain, and restoration of the landscaping. During warm-weather months, the park offers twice-weekly acoustic concerts during the lunch hour.
In May 2012, a $5.2 million transformation of Sister Cities Park at 18th Street and the Parkway turned this barren, abandoned, 1.3-acre park into a richly planted, well-illuminated, and welcoming public space that provides a Children’s Discovery Garden with winding pathways, meandering stream and boat pond, a café, a satellite of the Independence Visitor Center, and a plaza that features a fountain embedded in bluestone, commemorating Philadelphia’s 10 global sister cities. The park is programmed with a variety of activities, from children’s games to festivals to evening wine-and-cheese events and serves local workers, residents, and the 3 million annual visitors to Parkway institutions.
In 2014, the Center City District completed its most ambitious project to date, the $55 million transformation of Dilworth Park on the west apron of City Hall. The new Dilworth Park has a café, programmable fountain, grassy lawn, benches, and elevators to the transit lines below. It is continually programmed with arts and cultural events and connects the Broad Street entrance to the Pennsylvania Convention Center to the Avenue of the Arts, links the office district to market east shopping and hotels, and serves as a gateway to both regional transit and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.