City tells Philly protesters to leave plaza

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - November 16, 2011

Mayor Michael Nutter's office said Wednesday the city has posted an official notice saying the $50 million renovation work at Dilworth Plaza is about to start following selection of a general contractor. Officials issued no deadline, however, and said they would work with the protesters on finding another location for them.

"This project's commencement is imminent," the statement said. "Accordingly, you should take this opportunity to vacate Dilworth Plaza and remove all of your personal belongings immediately."

The mayor's office said members of a homeless outreach team and advocacy groups would increase efforts Thursday to help anyone who needs assistance in relocating.

Managing Director Richard Negrin said the city is still working with representatives of the protesters on an alternative location, and "we're optimistic that we can come to an agreement on a reasonable path forward."

The protesters have had hundreds of tents camped in the plaza for more than a month to protest what they say is corporate greed and other issues. The group has resisted the city's call to move to another plaza across the street to clear the way for the renovation as well as two maintenance projects, the removal of tower scaffolding and repairs to windows overlooking the encampment.

Nutter says delay of the renovation project would stand in the way of more than 1,000 jobs, and tents need to move for the maintenance work. On Sunday, he cited "intolerable" health and safety conditions and fractured and uncommunicative leadership that he said was forcing the city to re-evaluate how it responds to the movement.

The statement came after the Center City District said Wednesday that the general construction contract for the renovation of Dilworth Plaza has been awarded to the Daniel. J. Keating Co. of Narberth. The business improvement organization and project manager cited the company's involvement with the recent renovation of City Hall as well as its experience working with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

The project, mostly paid for by federal and state grants, would replace concrete surfaces with public green space, improve access to the disabled, and revamp the transit system concourses. It would also put in a cafe that would remain lighted at night, a partially tree-covered lawn that could be used for concerts and a programmable fountain that could be turned off to allow other uses, such as ice skating, concerts or outdoor markets.

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