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Inga Saffron is the Architecture critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
They've reconstructed the space in front of Philadelphia's palatial City Hall, furnished it with a cafe, a high-tech spray fountain and movable chairs, and rebranded it Dilworth Park. But the vast granite prairie is still very much a plaza, with all the weaknesses the word implies.
Back in 2008, during the first giddy days of his administration, Mayor Nutter made the obligatory trip down to the Delaware to give a speech. Taking the stage in the overbuilt, underused Independence Seaport Museum, he announced that waterfront development was a top priority and that he would follow the recommendations of the new PennPraxis study. It was "a carpe diem moment" for the city, he assured the crowd.