Tiny Starbucks coming to Dilworth Park

Rendering of new coffee shop for Dilworth Plaza (Center City District)

Rendering of new coffee shop for Dilworth Plaza (Center City District)

This story originally appeared on PlanPhilly.

A second Starbucks is coming to Dilworth Park this spring.

“From the time we opened Dilworth in 2014, we watched how people used it, we looked at things we wanted to add, and every single year since it’s been opened we’ve been adding things,” said Paul Levy, executive director of Center City District, the nonprofit entity that manages the popular public space along the west side of City Hall.

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The new coffee shop would be smaller than the Dilworth Park Cafe-branded Starbucks that operates on the City Hall plaza’s northern end, and won’t include seating. Like the larger cafe, it will be run by Brûlée Catering, a local company.

The tiny caffeine dispensary will be branded as a Starbucks. Probably not coincidentally, it will sit directly across the street from La Colombe, providing a visible alternative to the homegrown rival, which has recently gone national and begun selling its drinks on convenience store shelves.  On any given day, a stream of caffeinated customers cross from La Colombe’s South Penn Square location into Dilworth.

The new shop will sit 446 feet from  Brûlée’s other Starbucks — roughly the length of two city blocks.

“All of us are lazy,” said Levy.  “Walking two blocks to a cafe for a drink is not human nature these days.”

Freshly planted trees and shrubberies will surround the new shop. A “green screen” of trestles running up the sides, and a green roof, will add to the sylvan effect, planners said on Tuesday at a meeting of the Historic Commission’s Architectural Committee.

When Dilworth Park debuted, critics described its minimal design as barren and pined for more vegetation.

Since then, trees and shrubbery have grown up in the plaza and the Center City District added an ice rink, a winter garden, and holiday markets to give the area more life, even in the gray months. Some 87 planters are tended year-round, many of them concentrated on the southern corner where the plaza meets at street level with the snarl of traffic moving around Penn Square.

The new cafe will be designed to blend in with that greenery — and potentially, provide another shield against traffic.

“It’s not that we are looking to hide the building but we are trying to make it part of the green screen, the green landscaping on the southern end,” Levy said.

The coffee shop got a recommendation from the Architectural Committee on Tuesday and will go before the full Historical Commission in January. Assuming it gets the final approval then, construction will start in February and is expected to wrap by April.

But while the committee was overwhelmingly supportive of the commercial addition to the city-owned plaza, they did express concerns about the building’s back exterior. That wall will be the thing that greets pedestrians walking by on the sidewalk. It is adorned with a green trestle, but critics said it lacked any way of engaging with the thousands of people who will bustle past every day.

“It’s kind of abrupt, you’re basically putting a blank facade on a main city sidewalk,” said John H. Cluver, a partner with Voith & Mactavish Architects and a member of the committee. “It is treating itself as a wall to the public and not a public amenity.”

The new cafe will join another relatively recent addition to South Penn Square — Parliament Coffee, owned by Starr Catering, which opened in 2017.

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