New building opens at Franklin Square

With a spinning carousel serving as his backdrop, Deputy Mayor for Environmental and Community Resources (and Parks & Recreation Commissioner), Michael DiBerardinis, joined other officials on a sunny but blusetery afternoon in welcoming a new permanent event space to Franklin Square

Acknowledging the public-private partnerships that went into the park’s renovation six years ago, DiBerardinis praised it as a “big idea that became an outrageous success.” This was also the official opening day of the park’s programmed season.

The 36-foot by 36-foot building, dubbed The Pavilion, will serve as function space that can be rented by the public, as well as a venue for Once Upon a Nation ticketed performances.

To celebrate its unveiling, Historic Philadelphia, Inc., which oversees the park, staged a competition to give away The Pavilion’s first event. Some 175 people entered and the winner, Jason McKenzie, was there with his family and friends celebrating his 3rd birthday.

Jason also appeared as a guest of honor, lining up with “Benjamin Franklin” (Ralph Archbold) and the other dignitaries to officially cut the ribbon to open the space.

Afterwards, he — but not Ben — could be found swirling on the carousel and scarfing down sample cake shakes from SquareBurger, the park’s popular purveyor of franks and hotdogs, operated by STARR Restaurants.

The new structure, which cost $400,000 to build and was funded by the William Penn Foundation, echoes the look and feel of 2009’s burger shack, which in turn gets its inspiration from the original building on the grounds, now a restroom facility.

Two other buildings have been added since the park re-opened, too: a ticket sales structure and a storage shed.

All five buildings have green pitched metal roofs with overhangs. Although the original building is brick, each of the additions (including The Pavilion) are clad in white siding.

The Pavilion’s interiors are painted in a light yellow and sport light wood flooring. It offers lots of wooden French doors, which give the space the ability to be pretty much open to the outside.

Designed as a revenue source that will stretch the park’s season, the space’s generous use of glass will make it a pleasant hideaway amidst the trees when inclement weather comes.

Located on the northwestern end of the park, away from the cluster of other structures, The Pavilion, is a simple box that with a few nicks will look as if it’s been there since the beginning.

When the proposal came before the Art Commission just a year ago, some nay sayers worried about “open space encroachments.”  That often tiresome argument might seem, at least, more relevant in a park, but it’s nonetheless true that a public park is for using.

This modest rectangle doesn’t seem an encroachment at all. Instead, it’s an enhancement to a space that was relatively unused.

Contact the reporter at jgreco@planphilly.com and follow her on Twitter @joanngreco

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