Much more than a downtown square

Every realtor who ever sold a condo or leased an apartment in a western neighborhood of Center City likely stretched the truth once or twice when telling a client their new place was “in Rittenhouse Square.”

But it’s proof to the small, historic park’s value that everyone wants to live “on the square.”
Not just the backyard for many of Philadelphia’s most affluent, Rittenhouse Square at lunchtime on a cool fall day showcases to visitors the diversity that the city should strive for in every neighborhood.

“There is a mixing of all types of people: young and old, wealthy and not so wealthy, different ethnic groups,” the city’s planning commission executive director, Gary Jasztrab, said yesterday. “It’s a great example of Philadelphia’s diversity.”

The American Planner’s Association acknowledged that aspect and several others — like history and beauty — in ranking Rittenhouse Square as one of the top 10 “Great Public Spaces” on its 2010 list of “Great Places in America.”

“As one of the oldest public places in the United States, Rittenhouse Square has demonstrated that a vision for a great urban place can, over time, produce a quality environment that has a unique identity,” Mayor Michael Nutter said. “Now more than 300 years old, Rittenhouse Square is that place where all can find recreation, engagement, delight or the solitude they seek amidst the intense energy of a thriving city.”

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