Renovation coming, LOVE Park briefly welcomes skateboarders

20160211_inq_se1love11-b
Mayor Kenney announces the groundbreaking for work at LOVE Park. He said skateboarding would be allowed there through Monday.

City officials kicked off renovations to LOVE Park with a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday, and announced that the ban on skateboarding would be lifted through Monday.

"This is, like, one of the capitals of the world for skateboarding," Mayor Kenney said of John F. Kennedy Plaza. "There's a certain culture of the Robert Indiana statue and this space ... so we're going to allow folks to come back and experience this place one more time before it goes under construction."

The granite from LOVE Park will be donated to the Franklin's Paine Skatepark Fund, to be used in newly constructed skate parks across the city.

Jesse Rendell, a lawyer, skateboarder, and son of former Gov. Ed Rendell, had the idea for both the final weekend and the granite donations.

"It was really important to do something to kind of mitigate against the fact that this most iconic park was being closed," Jesse Rendell said. "It's incredibly hard for the lay person to understand, but it is the equivalent to one of the seven wonders of the world to skateboarders."

Construction on the park begins this spring and will be completed by next spring. The design will flatten much of the stairs and walls, and feature more green space, trees, flower beds, food trucks, and a new fountain.

"I think you'll see a much better, more welcoming, more usable park in the future," said Mary Margaret Jones, park designer with Hargreaves Associates. Hargreaves and KieranTimberlake are executing the $19.7 million redesign.

The Welcome Center will become a restaurant and get a face lift as a new public art piece, but will keep its iconic saucer shape.

During construction, the LOVE sculpture will move to Dilworth Park through the end of the summer. It will then be removed for restoration before the park reopens.

The first step in construction will be peeling back the park's surface to allow repairs to the roof of the parking garage beneath it.

The city sold the garage to InterPark in 2014 for $29.6 million and is using some of the proceeds to help fund the redesign.

Skating has been banned in the park since 2002, but as the park - slated for renovation - fell into disrepair, it remained a hub for skaters.

About a dozen skaters attended the groundbreaking, most standing in the back of a large crowd of city officials.

David Taltowsky, 33, criticized the colorful, softer redesign.

"People don't go to the city for grass, people come to the city to be in the city," he said. "It's a landmark, it's in video games, but I don't even see it from the skateboarder point of view. The city's losing a hub. People come here and break-dance, sing, hang out; people like the environment here."

Luke Darigan, 29, heard the ban would be lifted and took the rest of the week off from the skateboard shop where he works to make the most of the final days. "It's a shame it's going to be, like, the coldest weekend of the year," Darigan said. "But I'll be here."

jterruso@phillynews.com

215-854-5506

@juliaterruso