The Philadelphia region is famous for more than 30 public gardens, arboreta and historical landscapes, earning it the moniker America’s Garden Capital. But cold winters can make it challenging to attract people to these outdoor spaces.
Yet many cold-winter cities have created successful, outdoor celebrations: St. Paul has a Winter Carnival and Montreal, a Fete des Neiges. In Philadelphia people travel to see holiday decorations, and ice skating at Dilworth Park attracted 50,000 skaters in 2014, its inaugural year. In 2015, we added a holiday market.
To build on the success at Dilworth Park, the CCD and Greater Philadelphia Gardens (GPG) came together to launch a Wintergarden in the 2016-2017 winter season in the heart of the city. Longwood Gardens, Morris Arboretum, the Arboretum at the Barnes Foundation and others created a beautiful, interactive Wintergarden with day and evening programming. Colorful lights accented trees on the park’s perimeter and a large hedge maze activated the southern lawn. Nearby was the skating rink and café, where fire pits beckoned adults and children to warm up with a cup of hot cocoa, cider or a glass of mulled wine. The CCD and GPG hosted regular programs on Saturday mornings and Tuesdays at noon through February 25, 2017, including craft demonstrations, winter plant workshops, special happy hours and other activities.
The Center City District’s ‘Adopt-a-Bench’ program provides the unique opportunity for recognition in one of two signature parks – Sister Cities Park and John F. Collins Park. Donors are acknowledged by a bronze plaque on the selected bench, engraved with a personalized inscription. Funds from donations help endow the maintenance of these parks.
Renovated by the CCD in 2012, Sister Cities Park has since become a destination for diverse visitors, from families with children to patrons of Parkway cultural institutions who come to enjoy the fountain, the Children’s Discovery Garden, the pond, café and lawn. Among the most successful multi-generational parks in the nation, Sister Cities Park attracts an average of 28,500 visitors per month in warmer months. Throughout the year the CCD coordinates extensive and diverse programming from summer children’s literacy programs to happy hours and fall family events. Four benches are still available for adoption.
John F. Collins Park is a small quiet oasis in the heart of Center City’s business and retail district. It was designed by the late John F. Collins and renovated by the Center City District in 2011. The park’s gentle fountain, wood benches, native landscaping and lighting create a retreat-like atmosphere for workers, residents, and visitors seeking a peaceful setting amid a bustling downtown. Six benches are still available for adoption.
Benches are also now available for adoption at the Viaduct Rail Park, our city’s newest elevated public park, now under construction between Broad Street and Callowhill. Donors receive a plaque on the selected bench, engraved with a personalized inscription. Ten unique benches, some solid timber and some handsomely fabricated of wood and metal will add to the park’s rusticity while bringing comfort to those who pause to admire their historic surroundings. An additional five benches are situated at the southern end of the park, where those who rest can take in the stunning views of Philadelphia’s Center City skyline.
Mosaiculture fashions unique, living artwork by combining sculpture, painting and horticulture into jaw-dropping creations made primarily from plants. Displays are featured every three years at the Mosaicultures Internationale competition, the brainchild of artist Lise Cormier. Initiated in 2000 in Montreal, the triennial exhibition invites artists from throughout the world to design around a common theme and displays large-scale public horticultural sculptures in prominent public spaces and parks. These competitions have drawn crowds of more than a million people to Montreal; Shanghai, China; and Hamamatsu, Japan; next year’s event will be in Antalya, Turkey. The organization has expanded in recent years, enabling winning creations to travel to partner cities for events outside international festival sites.
The CCD seeks to bring the incredible Mosaiculture experience to CCD-managed parks, augmenting Philadelphia’s celebrated legacies of public art and horticultural prominence. The temporary presence of these oversized horticultural sculptures will attract families with children while enhancing and activating our public spaces.
The Center City District’s $55 million renovation of Dilworth Park in 2014 has created a major destination for more than 50,000 people each weekday. The park connects Philadelphia’s prime office, shopping, convention and hotel districts to cultural and educational institutions on the Avenue of the Arts and along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Situated above the region’s transportation hub, Dilworth Park serves as a prominent transit gateway. Iconic glass headhouses welcome thousands of daily riders to downtown destinations.
The Musical Stairs at Dilworth Park will offer a new interactive attraction that engages and delights passengers and visitors walking from the transit system into the park. From the concourse level, 30 lit musical steps play 30 different notes as passengers rise to the park level. Invented by Remo Saraceni in 1982 and made famous as the Original Big Piano ™ from the movie Big, starring Tom Hanks, The Musical Stairs will be a custom-designed application of the touch-tone technology that celebrates the artistic and creative spirit of the city.
The staircase pictured here is under the southern headhouse at Dilworth Park. The surface of the raised stairs complies with all the public Safety and Visually Impaired configurations and meet required governmental regulations while maintaining the resilient, playful integrity of Saraceni’s original design. Branding or recognition opportunities exist both on the keys themselves and on other amenities throughout Dilworth Park.
With your support, the CCD can sustain William Penn’s vision of a “greene countrie towne.” Today, street trees not only are challenged by summer droughts, winter snow, pests and diseases, but also by 21st century challenges: pollution, construction trucks, stapled posters and bicycle locks. There are more than 2,600 street trees within the boundaries of the Center City District and for two decades, we have maintained over 780 of them from Vine Street to South Street, river to river. Approximately 60 are in need of replacement each year. You can help replace damaged trees, sustain routine pruning, watering, fertilization and pest management on healthy trees and plant new ones to expand Center City’s canopy of thriving trees.