Everyone has heard of Shakespeare in the Park, a theater company that presents works of the great bard in New York City’s Central Park – there’s also Shakespeare in Clark Park, which performs regularly in West Philadelphia. But Philadelphia is going one step further by giving the bard a park all his own.
City officials cut the ribbon Thursday on the newly improved Shakespeare Park in front of the Philadelphia Free Library’s main branch along Vine Street at 19th Street.
The park’s renovations were park of a $65 million Bridges Over 676 project that includes improvements to several public spaces along Ben Franklin Parkway – like the Pennypacker Monument area at Logan Square and Winter Street at the Franklin Institute – along with pedestrian bridges over I-676, intended to help the public connect with the parkway.
At the library, Shakespeare Park is now outfitted with “replaced benches and sidewalks, updated outdoor lighting, and fresh landscaping,” as noted on the Philadelphia Free Library’s website.
“They just did a fabulous job,” said Siobhan A. Reardon, president and director of the Philadelphia Free Library, as she toured Shakespeare Park on Thursday morning. “With this, we wanted to connect the park and a library.”
Calling the refurbished park “a treasure,” Reardon said that the library will host family-friendly events throughout the summer in the space, starting Thursday night with a new Jazz Thursday concert in Shakespeare Park. The jazz performances will be held every Thursday for five weeks.
And, on weekends, she said, the library plans to hold story times for families.
And, according to Mike DiBeradinis, the city’s managing director, thanks to PennDOT’s work on the park and the pedestrian bridges, the project will “reconnect people to the parkway.”
DiBeradinis likened Shakespeare Park’s improvements to the city’s new Rebuild initiative, which hopes to bring $500 million in improvements to the city’s parks and rec. centers during the next few years.
“This is an extension of that investment,” said DiBeradinis.
Also, during the day’s announcement, Leslie Richards, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Transportation, noted that PennDOT is ahead of schedule on its Bridges Over 676 project and that it is now expected to be completed in 2018, “a year ahead of schedule.”
The day’s announcements were stalled momentarily Thursday morning, as activists with Black Lives Matter interrupted the event to demand answers in a recent police-involved fatal shooting. Read about the protest here.
After the activists left the library, the day’s announcement continued as scheduled.