New initiative aims to ramp up excitement, reduce fear about Pope visit
Mayor Michael Nutter held the sixth press conference Wednesday about the visit of Pope Francis during the World Meeting of Families (WOMF) in September, and for the first time the news didn't deal with security and logistical concerns. Or rather, it tried to make security and logistical concerns seem like a lot of fun.
Here's the main takeaways:
- Mayor Nutter and World Meeting of Families executive director Donna Farrell jointly unveiled "I'll Be There," an initiative that hopes to excite residents and businesses about the papal visit. A big part of this, Farrell said, is to take the term "security zone" or "traffic box" from our minds and replace it with "the Francis Festival Grounds." Organizers are calling to "reimagine" the Center City area south of Girard Avenue from the Delaware River to 38th Street as a "celebratory, fun, and welcoming" space for visitors. They emphasized that the only security zones will be around the "red zone" areas of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Independence Mall.
- There will be food and beverage vendors within the "Francis Festival Grounds," formerly known as the "traffic box" or "Pope security zone." This news comes a week after the city began addressing concerns of some 250 business owners who don't know how they will keep shop doors open during the papal visit. Nutter said they've had an 80 answer rate on the phone calls.
- Leaders from the Latino and African American business communities said that the hotline works well and they are enthusiastic about the business prospects during the papal weekend.
- SEPTA and PATCO transit systems will deliver visitors within a mile's walking distance of the two main event areas in Center City, now know as "Francis Festival Grounds."
- The Reading Terminal Market, which contemplated closing for the weekend of the papal visit, has decided to keep its doors open.
- There will be 40 jumbotrons along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and beyond during the pope's Sunday mass.
- UberBLACK ride-sharing vehicles will be allowed inside the "Francis Festival Grounds," formerly known as the "traffic box," until 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, should anyone need to catch an early flight or skip town. UberWAV, the handicap-accessible ride-sharing service, will be allowed within the zone all weekend (with security checks on all vehicles).
- There will be a social media campaign during the weekend of the Pope's visit in which visitors are encouraged to create a "virtual passport" on social media using the hashtag #OpenInPHL. Participants will be entered into a contest and could win a trip to Rome.