|“The Independence Visitor Center is designed to showcase the region.”|
Don Veon, Vice President of operations
Philadelphia will soon be welcoming visitors in a new way. The brand new Independence Visitor Center will be opening its doors for the first time at Sixth and Market streets in Old City on Tuesday, Nov. 20.
The center will serve as the new official visitor center for Independence National Historic Park, the City of Philadelphia and the surrounding region.
This unique facility is being developed and operated by the Independence Visitor Center Corporation, a private non-profit organization, and the National Park Service. Together, they are able to accent on the greatest features of the region, said Don Veon, vice president of operations for the Independence Visitor Center Corporation. It is the first endeavor of this kind.
The project was conceived about five years ago. Veon said that the building is opening “on time and on budget.” The facility cost $38 million to complete, but it had many public and private donors. Some of the donors include The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, The City of Philadelphia, Delaware River Port Authority, The Annenberg Foundation, and the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
Since the Philadelphia region has many colleges, the welcome center will be a great resource to college students.
“We want them to see what there is to see and do what there is to do,” Veon said. “It is designed to showcase the region.” The center will highlight area museums, night-life, parks and recreation and more.
“We want people to come to Philly and get an education, then stay,” Veon said.
Boston architects Kallman, McKinnel and Wood designed the facility that goes above and beyond the current government standards to make sure the disabled can have as good a time as everybody else. The center is also extremely interactive. There are video terminals, as well as two Park Service sponsored movie theaters and another open theater. There is a concierge service as well as a coffeehouse. The center also has graphic walls depicting the many faces of Philly. Everything is colorful and appealing to the eye.
The Independence Visitor Center is the first in many steps to revamp Independence Mall.
“In the early 1990s, the National Park Service developed a General Management for the site,” said Paul Sheridan, public affairs officer for Independence National Historic Park.
Over the next 15 years, the Park Service plans to utilize all three blocks of Independence Mall. This includes building a new home for the much-adored Liberty Bell. Another part of this plan is building a new home for the U.S. Constitution, which will include a bus depot. The entire project is expected to be completed by July 4, 2003.
“I think it’s great … I’m looking forward to seeing everything. It makes sense to have a starting point for people to know where they are going,” said Karen Schaaf, a Park Service intern. Although Schaaf is originally from the Philadelphia region, she said that she was always skeptical of going into the city because she never knew where she would end up.