Nutter, Clarke reach LOVE Park deal

City Council President Darrell Clarke, announcing an agreement yesterday with Mayor Nutter, had wanted up to seven concession stands at JFK Plaza to help pay for the park’s renovation. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)

From today's Daily News:

MAYOR NUTTER and City Council President Darrell Clarke have reached a compromise on the renovation of JFK Plaza (a/k/a LOVE Park) after weeks of sparring over the issue.

Clarke agreed to allow plans for the sale of the garage beneath the plaza to advance in City Council, a transaction Nutter's been pushing for since the city garnered a more generous offer for it than was expected.

In exchange, the mayor agreed to "dedicated space for [food] concessions" at the site, while seeking participation from the public and the private sector in studying ways to maximize revenue.

"After a number of conversations between Council President Clarke and myself, the opportunity to lower the ultimate taxpayer cost, supplanted by corporate philanthropic or some amount of revenue-generation at the site - that combination is just a good idea," Nutter said.

The city originally asked for $20 million for the 810-space garage, but the highest bidder - Chicago-based InterPark LLC - eclipsed that figure, offering $29.6 million.

Clarke and Nutter looked triumphant announcing their agreement during a news conference in front of Robert Indiana's iconic "LOVE" sculpture yesterday afternoon.

"The refurbishment of this park is long overdue," Clarke said.

"This was not an adversarial relationship, although it may have appeared to be that way in some of the press accounts, but the reality is that we have been working together over the last several months. I'm excited about the prospects of having a well-balanced approach to redoing this park."

Last month, Clarke entertained a proposal for seven restaurants on the park apron - the revenues of which he envisioned would pay for the renovations. But backlash from community groups may have struck a chord.

"This is good news, but it remains to be seen what the details are," said Lauren Bornfriend, executive director of the Philadelphia Parks Alliance, who represents one of the more vocal objectors to the restaurants proposal.

"Our assumption is that, with the public process, the plan they arrive at will look very different. We'll continue to be vigilant to ensure city and state laws that protect parkland are adhered to."

Nutter said he wants to see food or restaurant concessions balanced with enhanced green space for the park. He said the city would apply for $3 million from the commonwealth's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.

"Remaining costs would be funded either through proceeds from the sale of the garage beneath the plaza, through the city's capital investment program or both," said Nutter, who invited private corporations and foundations to share input.

"We welcome institutions to step forward immediately if they are interested in this project," he said.