For decades it has been a sore eye in Philadelphia’s case for its return as a great city of the world: the cement slab that is known as the Center City hub of Penn’s Landing.
Plans for casinos, condiminums and other massive corridor-wide development on Philadelphia’s main portion of the Delaware River have been designed, redrawn and withdrawn countless times. A $1 million grant from the William Penn Foundation is going to start to change of all of that, many involved say.
On Sunday, Mayor Nutter, City Councilman Frank DiCicco and William Penn Foundation President Feather Houstoun promised real progress in several tangible ways, including a park, a recreational trail and, yes, a formal master plan for entire waterfront.
Maybe you didn’t know about it. The news conference was held at Penn’s Landing. Why the Hell would you go there?
At the heart of this transition is the use of innovative design by Penn Praxis, a nonprofit subsidiary of the University of Pennsylvania chaired by its school of design, and the forgoing lessening apparent easing of corruption by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, the authority recently created to overtake the shuttered the Penn’s Landing Corporation, notorious for malfeasance and diddling of past waterfront plans during the last three decades.
The new hope is largely pinned to Penn Praxis, which aims to overcome the waterfront’s dismal history:
What started out badly in the ’60s, when I-95 first cut its rude swathe between the city and the river, has only gotten worse in the intervening years, until what we have today, says Harris Steinberg, is a no-man’s land of big box stores, bridges over 95, remote quasi-public spaces and old industrial brownfields. In sum, it’s the backdoor waiting to become our front lawn.
And Steinberg, executive director of Penn Praxis, the School of Design’s practice clinic, is now in a position to guide that transformative process. Mayor Street recently signed an executive order to create a master plan for the seven-mile stretch of the Delaware River from Oregon Avenue to Allegheny. He asked Penn Praxis to lead the effort. This time, says Steinberg, there is real hope for a viable solution. [Source]
The recent economc slowdown has bummed several residential projects, which was starting to suggest another in a long line of failed attempts, but those involved say this new attempt has a better chance at success by targeting and controlling the focus. First with Pier 11, the now abandoned piece under the Ben Franklin Bridge at Race Street and Columbus Boulevard. Then with a cleared trail, perhaps other portions to follow.
These plans are, excitingly, nearer than other waterfront plans, aimed at 2030.
The grant, as well as capital funds from the newly formed Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, will fund design, engineering and construction costs for the Pier 11 park.
Design work will begin in about a month, and the project should be completed in about 18 months, according to Deputy Mayor Andy Altman.
The William Penn Foundation grant will also help fund the creation of a Central Delaware Public Access Master Plan to guide future waterfront developments.
Work on a recreational trail that will run from Penn’s Landing to Pier 70 at Lombard and Reed streets will break ground in April. The first two phases of the trail are scheduled for completion by July. [Source]
Andy Altman, deputy mayor for planning and economic development and chairman of the new planning group, told the Daily News that focus will make this work.
“We are starting off differently,” he said. “You have to do it piece by piece and mile by mile.”
Photo courtesy of a journey through Philadelphia’s waterfront in the mid 1800s.