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Sister Cities Park opening brings a slice of the Wissahickon and a piece of Paris to the Parkway

Historically, Center City has been defined in part by its four outlying squares, which are Rittenhouse, Washington, Franklin, and Logan. However, Logan Square has long been an anomaly because of its circular shape. While Logan Square is fabled for its fountain, it has lacked some of the park-like characteristics of the other three squares. The Center City District (CCD) saw the need to expand on Logan Square and rehabilitate Sister Cities Park at 18th and the Parkway. This facelift was complete last week, and Sister Cities is now open for relaxation, lunch, and sailboats.

Sister Cities Park is unique because it brings a Wissahickon Valley-themed landscape, a Parisian-style café, and a children’s sprayground to Center City. The sprayground, which has the names of Philadelphia’s 10 sister cities etched in it, is a great alternative to Logan Circle for children to cool off. Families and other park-goers can grab a few bites to eat at the Milk and Honey Café, which is the offspring of West Philly’s Milk and Honey Market. Here, they serve French-style sandwiches and  pastries. The Independence Visitor Center also has a satellite branch inside the café.

The rear of the park is perhaps most impressive, as it includes a miniature boat pond, streams, and a rugged rock-filled landscape evocative of Northwest Philly’s Wissahickon Valley. The local architecture firms DIGSAU and Studio| Bryan Hanes collaborated to design Sister Cities, along with Pennoni Engineers, says Paul Levy, the president and CEO of the CCD. The Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory, which is an organization in Frankford that teaches children from Frankford, Kensington, and Port Richmond about maritime life, will provide youth-made sailboats for the pond. 

The Center City District has been the driving force behind Sister Cities Park, and will provide management and maintenance of the space. "This will be maintained and run in a first-class manner," says Levy, with a blast of conviction in his voice. The CCD will be employing sustainable techniques to maintain the park, such as dumping ladybugs to preserve the plant life. Ironically, the ribbon-cutting for Sister Cities took place exactly a year after the international park’s groundbreaking. As with many CCD projects, the park was finished quickly and efficiently.

Dignitaries cut the ribbon at Sister Cities this past Thursday in an event that featured plenty of participation from local K-12 students. The Friends Select School Choir roused the crowd with their singing and instrumentation, while younger kids from the Russell Byers Charter School put the ceremonial first boats from the Wooden Boat Factory into the pond. Speakers, which included Mayor Nutter, Paul Levy, and the Knight Foundation’s Don Kimelman were clearly wowed. "There’s a very heartening view across Logan Square and to Aviator Park," said Kimelman.

The transformed park is a testament to the sense of connectedness that Philadelphia shares with its sister cities. Representatives from the Israeli, Italian, and German consulates were on-hand at the ribbon-cutting to offer their appreciation and wince at the speaker’s pronunciation of their names. The park honors sister cities in Cameroon, China, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Poland, and Russia. It was first opened in 1976, but became a homeless hangout and never caught on with the general public. 

Source: Paul Levy, Center City District
Writer: Andy Sharpe
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