For the second year in a row, the private group that manages Franklin Square will enclose the public park with a fence for five weeks during its Chinese Lantern Festival, but the fence has been redesigned in response to criticism to allow views into the space during the day.
At a news conference Tuesday to kick off the event, which will run from May 9 to June 11, Historic Philadelphia President Amy Needle said that the new design is an attempt address concerns that the tall, fabric-draped fence sent an exclusionary message. Last year’s festival was the first time that one of William Penn’s original squares was completely cordoned off for such an extended period for a for-profit event, and it provoked intense debate among public space advocates.
"We definitely heard you," Needle said, referring to the criticism.
The new fence is being designed by landscape architect Brian Dragon so that sections can be folded back during the day, when the park will be open to the general public. Starting around 5 p.m., the full fence will be set in place and only people with tickets will be allowed into the park. The event is run by a private company and Historic Philadelphia receives a portion of the proceeds. Adult tickets will be $17, the same as last year.
Needle could not say how much money the festival ultimately raised for Franklin Square, but said all of it went into a fund to maintain the park. While more than a million people used Franklin Square last year, Historic Philadelphia sold 92,000 tickets for the Lantern Festival.
Check out my column on philly.com later Tuesday and in Wednesday's Inquirer.