Stop Building A Starbucks in Dilworth Park

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Dilworth Park is an incredibly special public space for Philadelphia. Aside from sitting at the foot of City Hall, it's the only park in the entire city of Philadelphia that's connected by both the Broad Street Line Subway and Market-Frankford Line El. Dilworth Park connects tens of thousands of Philadelphians and dozens of Philly neighborhoods every day. And frankly, it's public land that should not be sold off to Starbucks for their private profit! 

SOME BACKGROUND:

Dilworth Park is like an increasing number of Philadelphia’s public spaces that has been leased to a private group who now manage the park. These private groups make nearly all the decisions about what happens (or doesn't) in our public space; decisions like closing our public parks so they can host private events, or banning peaceful public protests. That group in Dilworth’s case is the Center City District.

You can read my original thoughts on this Dilworth Park Starbucks in my February 26 opinion piece for The Philadelphia Inquirer here.

WHY A PETITION NOW?

This petition is being created to collect what I believe is the overwhelming majority opinion of Philadelphians that we don't want to sell any piece of our city's most central and accessible park to a multinational coffee chain. 

Even if you take the Starbucks element out of this, who does this serve? There’s already a Dilworth Park themed coffee shop on the other end of the park. And there’s a La Colombe mere feet away from where they’re building this Starbucks, not to mention the dozen or so other coffee shops including a number of Starbucks within a few minutes' walk from this location! I can think of so many better things to build on this tiny parcel of land, if the goal of this add-on was to better serve Philadelphians. Things like playground equipment for all the kids who enjoy the park to use. Or how about a mini-public library with select community-related services. Or even free-standing mural walls to feature rotating murals by local artists. I guess the answer is obvious, this was not built to better serve the public.

While I had honestly expected that weeks of tweets, calls, and emails to both Center City District and Council President Darrell L. Clarke from countless Philadelphians might cause them to reconsider this awful decision, it appears they are doubling down. My hope now is that if this petition can earn enough signatures and shares that we can continue to put pressure on these decision makers and ultimately either stop the construction of this Starbucks or get them to give the contract of this kiosk to local vendors instead.  

"BRULEE CATERING"

By the way, one of Center City District's biggest defenses of this Dilworth Starbucks is the way it's technically being leased. That is, that the kiosk itself is being leased to Brûlée Catering, a "local" company, who is then branding the space as a Starbucks and selling Starbucks coffee. To me, that's a distinction without a difference; you're still building a Starbucks on public land. And furthermore, Brûlée Catering is owned by Comcast, so it's about as "local" as Amazon is to Seattle; in name and not necessarily in the spirit you're aiming to provoke. 

TO CENTER CITY DISTRICT:

Imagine the trust you could build if you just acknowledged your mistake, ended your contract with Starbucks, and worked with local vendors instead. That kiosk would be a terrific spot to offer foods/coffees from different places around Philly, rotating weekly/monthly!

That is to say that if the kiosk must be built, at least make it a public resource that Philly coffee/lunch shops and food trucks could apply for (maybe picked by lottery.) It'd be a great way to showcase Philly food/drink, and I'm sure local businesses would love to sell from that kind of busy, central location!

The point is this: Our public space is ours. And it's too valuable to be sold off like this for profit (even if there is some trickle down effect on your overall maintenance budget.)

We expect better, and we deserve better: Do better now and stop building this Starbucks in OUR park.



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