Shutdown week 2: Independence Visitor Center opens temporary digs

U.S. Park Rangers move barricades to close off Independence Mall due to the government shutdown. Credit: Charles Mostoller, Metro
U.S. Park Rangers move barricades to close off Independence Mall due to the government shutdown. Credit: Charles Mostoller, Metro

As week two of the government shutdown continues, Independence Visitor Center president Jim Cuorato is feeling the effects.

He’s had to lay off 90 percent of his staff until the shutdown is over and deal with a substantial amount of lost revenue in gift shop purchases.

“That troubles me deeply,” he said. “I have a terrific staff and they’ve all accepted it with grace and understood the situation we’re in.”

But Cuorato is feeling a little less helpless these days; yesterday, IVC reached an agreement with Historic Philadelphia, Inc. to set up temporary shop at their headquarters on Sixth and Chestnut streets — only a block away from the IVC location — to accommodate visitors to the Historic District.

“My frustration level had just reached a point where I said, ‘I’m not going to sit back anymore and watch all these frustrated visitors wander around and look for information,’” he said.

Visitors can get brochures, maps and tickets to attractions right in the historic district.

“It was the first good day we’ve had since this shutdown started,” he said. “We’re not just accepting this shutdown.”

Normally during this season, Cuorato said, 6,000 to 8,000 visitors will go to the IVC during the week while upward of 15,000 will visit on weekends.

“If we can help even just 500 people a day, then I will feel as though we are accomplishing something.”

The good news is that the other visitor centers — namely in Love and Sister Cities parks —are seeing more traffic.

And also, when the shutdown is over, Cuorato laid off staff will be rehired back. “That’s can’t come soon enough.”

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