The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jan 31, 2013

Milestone reached in Dilworth Plaza transformation

Posted by Valerie Nahmad

By Linda Harris, Center City District City of Philadelphia

Over the weekend of January 11-13,  the Center City District, with a lot of support from SEPTA, completed a major step in the Dilworth Plaza project. The Market-Frankford station at City Hall was closed for 52 hours and trains were diverted so that construction crews working on the renovations could replace major structural steel beams that will support improvements being made to the concourse level immediately above, where new subway entrances and elevators are being added and an improved passenger orientation and fare lines are being created.

The work was successfully completed Sunday, October 13, and the new structural steel was inspected and approved, scaffolding removed and cleaned up, and the Market-Frankford Line was back up and operational.

Since groundbreaking in January 2012, most of the progress on the construction of the new Dilworth Plaza has been underground, where the work has involved excavations down and around three operating transit lines, without disrupting more than 100 years of underground utility lines that support City Hall. In addition, work continues on installing new stairs and elevators to the subway platforms, rebuilding a major section of the concourse and creating new entrances to transit, as well as building all the foundations and reservoirs to support the plaza, lawns, fountain, and Janet Echelman’s exciting unique public sculpture, Pulse.

As this underground phase is completed by early summer, progress will become more apparent as the construction will move to the surface and each step toward completion will be highly visible. Taking shape will be the plaza’s new fountain that will be home to Echelman’s Pulse, a large lawn, tree groves, and a café with outdoor seating on the north end, visible from the Pennsylvania Convention Center and creating a place where patrons will be able to look directly up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Commissioned by the Center City District, Echelman’s much-anticipated Pulse will make Dilworth Plaza a destination, in addition to being the centerpiece of a well-traveled transit hub welcoming 300,000 passengers into Center City each day and serving as the primary transit gateway to the Sports Complex, to Temple University’s campuses, and to all of University City.  Pulse will use five-foot-tall, moving columns of atomized water, to reflect in real time the movements of the transportation systems below, utilizing the designated colors of SEPTA’s transit lines that carry workers, residents, and visitors throughout the city via the City Hall hub.

The installation of Pulse will ensure that the $50 million transformation of Dilworth Plaza will become a memorable public space, thanks to support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The $400,000 grant to the Center City District, which will enable the installation of Echelman’s sculpture, is part of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge, a $9 million initiative funding innovative projects that engage and enrich Philadelphia’s communities. Dilworth Plaza is expected to be completed by mid-2014.

The Center City District, a private-sector organization dedicated to making Center City Philadelphia clean, safe and attractive, is committed to maintaining Center City’s competitive edge as a regional employment center, a quality place to live, and a premier regional destination for dining, shopping and cultural attractions. Find us at, Facebook, and Twitter @ccdphila. For photos, videos, and more information about Dilworth Plaza and Janet Echelman’s artwork, please click here.

Artist’s rendering of Janet Echelman’s sculpture, Pulse.

A worker who was part of the team that replaced major structural steel beams underground. A worker who was part of the team that replaced major structural steel beams underground.

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