Love Park, parking garage re-do project delayed by funding

Funding issues have put the re-do of Love Park and the parking garage beneath it behind schedule.

The $30 million to $35 million it will take to complete the project is not yet in place, said Andrew Stober, chief of staff in the mayor’s office of transportation and utilities. Because of that, an architecture and engineering consultant that was to be selected in April has not yet been hired.

“It is important that the funding is in place (before the consultant is hired). We want to make sure that we do it right, and that we have the right level of funding to support it,” Stober said Wednesday.

The Philadelphia Parking Authority, which operates the 810-space garage under JFK Plaza – Love Park’s formal name – issued a request-for-proposals seeking an A&E consultant for the project in January. The applications were reviewed, and interviews have been conducted, Stober said.

The RFP says the PPA will issue up to $35 million in bonds, and in February, PlanPhilly was told the project wouldn’t cost the city anything, as the bonds, paid for with parking fees, would cover the entire project.

This is no longer the case. Stober said in an email that funding “will come from City capital funds, garage revenue bonds and private foundations.”

He did not know what portion of funding would come from each source.

A call to the parking authority for comment has not yet been returned.

The re-do is being driven by a need to repair the garage. Love Park sits on top of it, so the surface of the iconic park must be literally peeled away in order to fix roof leaks and make the garage handicapped accessible.  The project is a joint effort of multiple agencies, including the parking authority, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission and the Commission on Parks and Recreation.

All have pledged that the park will be improved without changing its most popular and loved attributes.

Project goals include making the park more pedestrian-friendly and a more seamless part of the surrounding streetscape while preserving the famous statue in its equally-famous location, retaining the diagonal site line that connects the park to the rest of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and making the Fairmount Park Welcome Center – aka the Flying Saucer Building – more usable. 

Those goals are set forth in a redevelopment study put together by the Planning Commission and Fairmount Park, and are part of the RFP issued by the PPA. To learn more about the project goals, see previous coverage.

The starting and ending dates of construction and the opportunities for public comment will be worked out once the architects and engineers are on board, Stober said.

“It’s going to be a public process,” he said. That is an important part of “ remaking a park that is a signature park for the city,” he said.

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