CITIES ARE SYNONYMOUS with skylines. Think of any major city and a landmark building or glittering glass tower probably springs to mind, but a city’s real personality comes alive in its parks. These down-to-earth spaces are where you’ll find children playing, co-workers lunching and couples canoodling. In areas where traffic is snarled and elevators are crammed, parks give us a respite from all that is, well, urban. Literally and figuratively, parks offer us a breath of fresh air. As Sarah Anello, venue sales specialist for the Center City District, says, “Great parks make great cities.”
The CCD (a non-profit dedicated to preserving the beauty of Philadelphia’s Center City) began renovating the district’s parks in 2009 and Anello was hired in 2013 to oversee sales and marketing of the parks as venue/event spaces. Selling the city’s parks was something new for both Anello and the Center City District, but it’s a challenge she relishes. “It does keep you on your toes and forces you to think outside of the box, but making people happy makes me happy,” she says.
This Ohio native has owned catering businesses in both Kansas and New Jersey, worked with Frog Commissary at the Franklin Institute and Drexelbrook Catering and even freelances as a food stylist for QVC, but “taking on this new venture with the CCD is like starting my own business again,” she explains. “I love that I can pull pieces of experience and wisdom together from all of my previous jobs. I love that certain aspects challenge the heck out of me. I thrive on cultivating, nurturing and watching the rental department grow, and the warm and fuzzy feeling I get knowing the revenue generated goes to a mission I believe in.”
Three parks—John F. Collins, Sister Cities and the brand-new Dilworth Park, which debuts in September—are now under the Center City District’s watchful eye. “Each park’s unique character appeals to a different clientele,” Anello says. “Collins Park is a favorite of couples because it is so tranquil and intimate, while Sister Cities is a favorite for families because of its water features.” (It’s a veritable water wonderland with 10 geyserlike spouts and a children’s wading pool.) Anello really lights up when discussing the soon-to-be-unveiled Dilworth Park. Set on the west side of City Hall and spiffed up thanks to a $55 million investment, Dilworth Park is definitely “the hot new venue,” according to Anello. “Fresh air, vitamin D, lush green grass, blossoming flowers, beautiful fountains—what is not to love?”