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New pavilion at Franklin Square to help people weather elements, celebrate and learn

Have you ever been strolling one of Center City's five squares on a frigid winter's day or a sweltering summer's day and suddenly had an urge for air conditioning or heat? If so, the group in charge of Franklin Square may have heard you. Historic Philadelphia Incorporated (HPI), which maintains Franklin Square, just broke ground on a pavilion that will provide protection from the elements and offer heat and air conditioning. The pavilion could be open as soon as New Year's Eve, depending on -- what else -- the weather. 

Cari Feiler Bender, who has been responsible for communications for Franklin Square since 2004, says the pavilion will be relatively small at 36 ft. by 36 ft. It will serve a variety of purposes, many of which are connected to it being indoors. First of all, the building will serve as a respite from extreme temperatures, rain, snow, and sleet. It will also act as "a flexible event space," says Bender. This could include presentations from historical re-enactors dressed as Ben Franklin or Betsy Ross as part of "Once Upon a Nation." HPI will provide audio and light hook-up, along with tables and chairs. 

The pavilion will also likely be available for birthday parties, wedding receptions, and other fetes. Bender elaborates by saying Stephen Starr would be a likely candidate to cater events in the pavilion. Starr has run SquareBurger in the park since 2009, which is the only permanent eating establishment inside any of the city's original five squares. Recognizing that not every birthday or wedding will be celebrated on a sunny 70-degree day, Bender emphasizes that this pavilion will accommodate year-round occasions. 

The construction of the pavilion will entail minimal disruption to the square's flora. Bender says there are a few large trees in the vicinity of the building site. "None of them will be removed or altered," says Bender. She reminds people that, while HPI takes care of Franklin Square, the city's Department of Parks and Recreation owns Franklin Square. The last thing Parks and Recreation would want to do is hew any trees. 

This pavilion will likely serve to further set Franklin Square apart from its peer parks in Philadelphia. In addition to SquareBurger, it already lays claim to a carousel, miniature golf course, and a memorial to deceased police officers and firefighters. All this for a square that many thought was left for dead just a decade ago.

Source: Cari Feiler Bender
Writer: Andy Sharpe

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