At this moment, Occupy demonstrators around the country are being evicted from town squares and parks. Tent cities in New York and Oakland have been removed and stricter laws banning tents and sleeping bags have been put into place as Occupiers return. But while Occupy Philly has enjoyed a relatively tranquil 40 days, Mayor Nutter is now giving protesters the boot.
Plans for a $50 million renovation to Dilworth Plaza are set to start this week. It’s not clear yet whether protesters will regroup or stand their ground for the first mass altercation with police, but we figured you might want to know more about these expensive renovations to City Hall so that you can form your own opinion when the inevitable fallout occurs.
Like most of Philly’s recent renovations, the project aims to create a more usable public space (see The Porch, Race Street Pier) that will encourage community events and tourism instead of pigeons and skateboarders. Funding for the 27-month long, $50 million project is mostly coming from President Obama’s stimulus plan as well as the state budget and SEPTA. All said and done, the city should be ponying up $10 million.
So, what are we getting out of all this?
Well, for starters the entrance to the subway will no longer feature an ominous death spiral. The plan is to erect two large, glass overhangs that will hover above the steps for each separate subway entryway. A foreign substance called “grass” will be also “installed” in front of the entrances to form a lawn with trees and landscaping.
But the real draw is the fountain. Organizers behind the project have teamed up with artist Janet Echelman to implement a super-futuristic, Xanadu-like attraction that kids will just love to pee in. It will feature a number of smaller spouts that shoot water in various patterns while a strange, multicolored mist, designed by Echelman, trails behind. City planners are also claiming that the space can be converted into an ice-skating rink, concert stage or death-match arena (No? Okay, I’m being told no.) Here’s what it will look like.
I think most of us would agree that the rehab to Dilworth Plaza is welcome, especially considering the amount of state and federal funding that’s on the table. However, critics claim that the money could be used to help the large population of homeless people currently living with demonstrators. On the other side of the coin is the fact that the project will bring in untold amounts of income from tourists in addition to creating some 800 jobs during construction.
Whichever your opinion, one thing is clear: Even during massive demonstrations protesting financial injustice, the economy must march on.