Philly hopes to add new restaurant at Love Park

A deal to convert the space fell apart during the pandemic. Now the Parks and Rec Department is hoping for a new concept to move in.

A view of the

Photo of the old visitors center they want to turn into a restaurant. (Tom MacDonald WHYY)

A Center City building sometimes called the “flying saucer” is now available for rent.

The circular building that was once the home of the Philadelphia Visitors Center at the edge of Love Park could soon have new tenants.

The city’s Parks and Rec Department is calling for proposals from “visionary” food and drink operators to take over the space.

“The goal is for a restaurant that can provide a great amenity for park users and park visitors, a wonderful experience, a dining experience, but also to help support the park,” Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said.

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Even though the city has spent over $5.6 million rebuilding the space, including donated glass that had to be handcrafted in Europe, the building would still need work to get it into shape.

“The new concessionaire will have to build their own kitchen,” Ott Lovell said. “They’re really going to have to fit out the entire space, the entire interior, and also some exterior work. There is a new utility infrastructure and fittings that are suitable for a commercial kitchen, but they will have to bring all of the kitchen equipment in.”

A few years ago, there was a deal to turn the space into a restaurant, but that fell apart because of the pandemic. Now, the city is starting from scratch looking for a new operator that is willing to pay rent or a combination of rent and a percentage of profits in order to inhabit the space.

A key attraction to the space, beyond its prime location, is the building’s panoramic glass that was custom made by the St. Gobain Companies. The glass restored the iconic, crystal clear views of City Hall and Fairmount Park along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

The renovations were completed as part of the LOVE Park restoration, and reflect an effort to retain the beloved “flying saucer.” Ott Lovell said the spot was the only place in the park to put dining, because of a parking garage beneath the park, so they did everything necessary to preserve and enhance the space with the goal of having a restaurant there.

This isn’t the only park space that has a concessionaire providing goods and services.  There are cafes along the parkway that offer limited food and drink, but nothing of this size or scope.

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The city is accepting proposals until May 12 for what will be a combination of both indoor and outdoor seasonal dining.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

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