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Snags in construction postpone Dilworth Plaza opening

From today's Daily News:

SPRING AND SUMMER will come and go before construction is finished on Dilworth Plaza - which flanks the west side of City Hall - pushing off the completion date for the project an additional two to three months.

Center City District officials said yesterday that several unexpected snags in the construction phase and cost overruns are pushing the end date to Labor Day at the earliest. The original date of completion was slated for spring.

"Relying on as-built drawings for Dilworth Plaza, which was completed in 1977, the Center City District and its construction team estimated in late 2011 the amount of underground demolition work that would be required in order to construct the three levels of the new Dilworth Plaza, while working around operating SEPTA lines," said Paul R. Levy, chief executive of the district.

"Based on that information, the CCD originally set late spring 2014 or early summer as the completion date. But during underground excavation through 2012 and 2013, as we worked around active SEPTA transit lines, crews encountered many old pipes and concrete stairwells that predated Dilworth Plaza."

Although nearly all the underground demolition has been completed and much of the structural slab has been poured, Levy said the unforeseen circumstances have upped the project's price tag to $55 million, roughly 10 percent more than the original estimate.

Throughout the life of the project, though, Levy said, it is fiscally sound through ongoing fundraising efforts. It is paid for by state and federal grants, the city of Philadelphia, SEPTA and local foundations.

Often compared to Manhattan's Bryant Park and Boston's Post Office Square, the rejuvenated Dilworth Plaza is expected to bring a wealth of new tourism interest to Philadelphia.

"When this facility opens, I think Philadelphians will come in droves to experience it," mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said.

"We understand that the project managers and their contractors found some stairwells and other things that were not in the original plans, and that required more time. There's still a good bit of work yet to be done and paid for, but I think the main issue here is that it's going to be a truly beautiful addition to an iconic structure in the heart of the city, and one that will attract many residents and visitors."

When finished, the new Dilworth Plaza is envisioned to boast wide, open green spaces, a cafe, a state-of-the-art outdoor venue for concerts and special events, and a customizable water fountain that can be transformed into an ice-skating rink in the winter.

Renderings show sweeping, well-lighted glass entrances to SEPTA's Broad Street subway, Market-Frankford and Regional Rail lines, used by about 400,000 riders daily.