Controversy brewing over new Starbucks in Dilworth Park

Antionette Lee
March 11, 2019 - 9:44 pm
Another Starbucks controversy is brewing, but this time it's because of a kiosk being built in Dilworth Park, outside of City Hall.

Antionette Lee/KYW Newsradio


Updated: 3/13/19 1:30 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Another Starbucks controversy is brewing and this time, it's because of a kiosk being built in Dilworth Park outside of Philadelphia City Hall. 

The Starbucks kiosk is being built in the southwest corner of Dilworth Park just outside of City Hall, and the petition against the kiosk has gotten thousands of signatures in just a few days. 

"I mean, it's supposed to be a public space. I mean, there's a Starbucks across the street right there like 10 paces away," said Nick Carmack. 

Carmack is right about the location; there's also Dilworth Park Café & Air Grille in the park and a locally owned La Colombe right across the street.

READ: Philly holds up its end of settlement with two men arrested at Starbucks last spring 

But the public space is leased by Center City District, which rakes in millions for the city. The CCD spends around $5 million every year for operating costs to keep the park clean and safe. 

"I know that the city needs to get revenue pretty much anyway it can and I would hate for this park to go away because it's not profitable," said Loretta Vasile. 

The new coffee stand will actually be operated by the Comcast owned Brûlée Catering--the Starbucks branding will help pay for the maintenance bill. 

But blogger Conrad Benner, who started the petition, says there could be a better use for the space.

"Work with local companies, work with local vendors, and don't work with a multinational coffee chain especially when there's so much coffee right around there," Benner said.  

Benner argues Philadelphians should be informed on how public space is used and even "sold off." 

"We weren't really brought into the process. No one knew this was happening," Benner said.  

A statement from CCD President Paul Levy said: 

“We want your readers to have accurate information about the new walk-up kiosk being installed in Dilworth Park. No public land is being sold to any private entity. The $55 million in improvements that the CCD made to Dilworth Park in 2014 are all owned by the City of Philadelphia, including the new coffee stand. Through our lease with the City, we are stewards for the space responsible for supporting all the operating costs of Dilworth Park, at no cost to the City. We are leasing the coffee kiosk to our current café operator, Brulee, who has entered into a license agreement to sell Starbucks product. Revenue CCD earns from the kiosk will be devoted 100% to park maintenance and programming, helping to employ more than 40 workers who maintain the park.

The CCD as an organization does not make money from the park. The costs of operating and maintaining the park exceed all the revenues generated from the park. This is because we maintain it at a very high standard and provide free events in the park, almost half the days of the year. This include free movies, dance and exercise classes, holiday events for children and a holiday light show.  Having transformed the park from a barren and unwelcoming space into a beautiful, thriving civic space that attracted 10.8 million people in 2018, we are extraordinarily proud of the work our staff and our contractors do in the park 365 days a year.”