Among the events that Rittenhouse Square could easily accommodate, he said, were concerts by musicians from the Curtis Institute, a light show similar to the one presented on Broad Street by the Center City District, outdoor yoga classes, a library and backgammon and chess tournaments.
He presented charts of how these activities have, over a period of years, become profitable, reliable streams of income for urban parks in other cities.
Biederman, whose consulting firm is based in New York City, has transformed derelict green spaces into vibrant parks. One of his best known successes is Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan. The challenge for Philadelphia, however, is not to transform, but maintain Rittenhouse Square's historic, quiet beauty.
Few in the large crowd, all members of Friends of Rittenhouse Square, expressed much enthusiasm for the proposals, although many said they were relieved to learn that rumors of far more crass commercialism were not under consideration.
When the microphone was turned over to the members, most took the opportunity to thank the volunteer staff of Friends of Rittenhouse Square for their hard work, but then chastise the board for being secretive.
One after another, members called for more transparency.
Since an anonymous letter began circulating in March, the community has become increasingly alarmed that the group was planning to change the character of the park. While the square is a city property and the grounds are cared for by the city and Fairmount Park, the Friends contributes about $400,000 a year to supplement maintenance cost. A drop in membership and charitable contributions prompted the group to seek alternative methods to raise money.
But the consensus last night was that the Friends needs to increase membership and seek more cash contributions from businesses and condominium and apartment owners around the square.
While much of the animosity prior to the meeting had been directed at Wendy Rosen, the president of the Friends, the tone was exceedingly cordial. In her opening remarks, Rosen noted that the group's meetings usually draw 25 members.
"I have heard criticism of the Friends of Rittenhouse Square being non-inclusive," she said. "That is constructive criticism and we are listening."
Contact staff writer Melissa Dribben at 215-854-2590 or firstname.lastname@example.org.