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From 2018: Made in America to stay on Ben Franklin Parkway after Kenney reaches accord with Jay-Z’s company

The 2018 Made in America Festival isn't leaving Philadelphia.

Fans arrive to the Made In America festival along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sunday, September 3, 2017.
Fans arrive to the Made In America festival along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sunday, September 3, 2017.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

This story is from July 2018. The 2023 Made in America festival has been canceled.

The Made in America Festival isn’t leaving Philadelphia.

It's not even leaving the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Less than a week after announcing this would be the last year for the annual Labor Day weekend festival on the Parkway — prompting an outcry from Jay-Z, the event's founder — the Kenney administration reversed course on Monday.

A resolution was brokered in a meeting between Mayor Kenney and an executive of Jay-Z's entertainment company, Roc Nation, which manages the festival with concert promoter Live Nation.

Kenney, who cited neighborhood complaints and other issues as the reason for a change, attributed the flap to miscommunication: Although the mayor's office had told Jay-Z's partners about plans to relocate the event within the city, he said, that message never made it to the boss. Kenney, however, wasn't pointing fingers.

"Buck stops here," the mayor said at an early evening news conference outside his City Hall office. "We don't want to lose the event. I think if we had forced the issue, the event most probably would have left. We'll work out our kinks, and we'll figure it out."

Jay-Z thinks the Parkway "is very important to this event," Kenney added. "He's better at these kind of things than I am, planning festivals."

Neither the mayor nor Roc Nation detailed the concerns — beyond calling them operational questions about setup and security — or how they would resolve them. Kenney did say the city may need to nix other events on the Parkway, but demurred when pressed to elaborate.

"I just wanted to get this out of the way — this got so complicated and convoluted, I wanted to end the speculation it wouldn't be here," Kenney said of the festival.

The new deal also averts a potential political embarrassment — sparring with a hip-hop icon and losing a popular event — at a time Kenney is preparing to ask Philadelphia voters for a second term next year.

The festival draws more than 100,000 people over two days. Last year, it cost the city $1.1 million for security, setting up the event, cleanup, and other services, according to the news website Billy Penn. Roc Nation reimbursed the city $600,000.

City officials said they didn't have an estimate for the festival's economic impact, but in at least one past year they pegged that figure at $10 million. Jay-Z says the festival has brought in more than $100 million to Philadelphia since 2012.

The mayor said he met at 11 a.m. Monday with Desiree Perez, chief operating officer of Roc Nation, at the Conshohocken office of Sixers co-owner Michael Rubin. Rubin is a friend of Meek Mill, the North Philadelphia rapper who is among the headliners for this year's festival on Sept. 1 and 2.

"After a candid and constructive discussion with the mayor, we are confident any miscommunication is corrected, and we are proactively addressing any concerns," Perez said in a statement. "We are committed to bringing the best experience possible to Philadelphians and all music lovers as well as the continuing prosperity of the city."

The news came after days of controversy.

After the Kenney administration announced last week that the festival's days on the Parkway were numbered, Jay-Z said he was blindsided and questioned the mayor's treatment of minority-owned businesses.

"We are disappointed that the mayor of the city of Philadelphia would evict us from the heart of the city, through a media outlet, without a sit-down meeting, notice, dialogue, or proper communication," the rapper and entrepreneur wrote in an op-ed published in the Inquirer and Daily News. "It signifies zero appreciation for what Made in America has built alongside the phenomenal citizens of this city."

Since the festival was launched on the steps of the Art Museum in 2012, it has attracted such talents as Beyoncé, Kanye West, Pearl Jam, and, of course, Jay-Z.

In addition to Mill, other headliners this year include Nicki Minaj, Post Malone, and Diplo.

Kenney told reporters on Wednesday that he wanted to keep the event in the city but that holding it on the Parkway had caused "operational difficulties" because of "how long it takes to kind of set up and take down."

But Roc Nation suggested that Jay-Z saw the Parkway as key to the city's appeal for the festival.

Amid the controversy, at least one other city – Milwaukee – invited Roc Nation to move the event, according to the Associated Press.