One of the sidewalk decals that'll be installed near handwashing stations at City Hall

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Update Apr. 16: Grab-n-go lunches are now available at City Hall from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily.

New public restrooms, handwashing stations and food distribution sites are coming to the heart of Philadelphia to help prevent coronavirus spread and provide options for “unsheltered individuals,” city officials confirmed to Billy Penn.

On Monday, City Hall’s north apron will get two portable sinks, joining a bathroom trailer and sinks placed at Love Park last week, according to city spokesperson Mike Dunn. Two handwashing stations are already available near the Municipal Services Building.

“Those without homes are more vulnerable than ever,” said Brian Abernathy, Philly’s managing director, during a press briefing last week.

Referred to internally as the “Center City Triplex,” according to an email obtained by Billy Penn, the initiative is a joint project between the city Department of Health and Human Services and local nonprofit Broad Street Ministries.

Mural Arts is providing colorful “space pads” to be installed along pathways near the sinks and toilets. The goal is to ensure social distancing when “waiting on line for services or sitting on steps and ledges,” according to the email.

The project also includes two new food distribution sites, set to launch this week. At least 800 meals are expected to be handed out each day there, the email indicates, coordinated in partnership with Broad Street Ministry, Prevention Point Philadelphia, and Project HOME. Some local restaurants and catering firms are also donating food for the giveaways, as part of what spokesperson Dunn referred to as the “Step up to the Plate” effort.

Like the city’s other distribution sites — there are 40 spread across nearly every neighborhood — no ID will be required to pick up a meal at the City Hall/Love Park sites.

Exactly when the food boxes will be given out is still unclear. The Love Park bathrooms are intended to stay open from 6 a.m. through 6 p.m., Dunn said. They’re being staffed by workers from One Day at at Time, the community-based recovery organization.

All this is being funded out of the $85 million in emergency appropriations City Council recently approved to help Philadelphia deal with the pandemic, per Dunn.

The city is also looking to set up a new temporary shelter for people experiencing homeless in Kensington, where traffic through the neighborhood’s so-called “open-air drug market” has surged recently. Philadelphia is also operating a quarantine site for vulnerable people diagnosed with COVID-19, at the Holiday Inn Express in Midtown Village.

Decals designed by Dora Cuenca and Shira Walinsky, respectively Credit: Courtesy Mural Arts Philadelphia

Using art to encourage social distancing

Designed by seven local artists who were initially paid $400 each, the Mural Arts sidewalk decals that surround the City Hall, MSB and Love Park sites feature public health facts related to COVID-19 and messages of hope.

According to the email, suggested messages include:

  • Please respect my space
  • Stay healthy
  • Safe distancing shows respect
  • You are worthy of this meal
  • Spread kindness, not germs
  • We are all in this together
  • Social distancing saves lives

“When one of our project managers, Kate Jacobi, suggested the idea, we knew that Mural Arts should jump at the chance to be involved,” said Mural Arts Executive Director Jane Golden. “We know that art can help magnify public health messaging, in addition to beautifying unusual places when we need it most.”

Mural Arts has already installed some of the space pads from four artists — Felix St. Fort, Dora Cuenca, Shira Walinsky, and Adam Crawford — at grocery stores around the city. With bold imagery and inspiring text, the decals encourage patrons to follow the CDC recommendation that people stay 6 feet apart.

The first store to install the space pads was the ShopRite on West Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia, owned by the Colligas family, longtime supporters of Mural Arts, according to Feiler Bender.

For now, all the text will be in English. Grocery stores and small markets wishing to receive space pads can reach out to Mural Arts Philadelphia at