The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation plans to make Penn’s Landing unrecognizable.
A proposal that would break ground at an unknown future date will create a concrete land bridge where a park will be installed. It will connect Old City to the waterfront in the hopes of making a greener public space in the same vein as the waterfront on the Schuylkill River.
“There have been a number of proposals over the last couple of decades,” said Karen Thompson, the planner and project Manager for the DRWC. “The master plan is to take the half cap that is now over Chestnut Street and extend it over Walnut Street to the waterfront.”
The DRWC is a nonprofit organization created by Mayor Nutter in 2009. While Nutter is responsible for its existence, the DRWC does not work for the city. The DRWC was birthed out of a specific vision for the Delaware Valley, to reconstruct the areas along the Delaware river from Allegheny Avenue to Oregon Avenue.
“We want to create a destination,” Thompson said. “There’s a handful of attractions there now, but we want to give people a reason to go there.”
The DRWC is working on 10-15 percent of the land along the Delaware’s embankment, the rest being private property.
While the Penn’s Laning plan is not in its final stages of design, Thompson said she believes the options are limitless.
“It will extend Penn’s Landing back to the city. It’s public investment into a public space,” Thompson said. “Currently, there is not only a physical barrier, but a psychological barrier that I-95 creates between the waterfront and old city.”
The re-development at Penn’s Landing is also hoping to bring more economic activity to the city. By creating a destination, the DRWC expects greater business throughout Philadelphia.
“In terms of economic development, this public investment will trigger private investment,” Thompson said. “It’s also a green space that creates room for concerts and festivals. This park will be a grand civic space.”
The idea of green space is in part responsible for the creation of DRWC. The mayor’s office of sustainability implemented a plan called Greenworks Philadelphia, setting a goal to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the United States, through sustainability projects like those of the DRWC.
“The new park is part of a commitment by the city to increase green space and trails all over the city,” Mark McDonald, Nutter’s press secretary, said in an email. “A number of investments have already been made and more are planned, all in an effort to make Philadelphia a place where people want to live, work and play.”
“The plans for Penn’s Landing are in accordance with the mayor’s green initiatives,” Thompson said. “We are very interested in encouraging people not to use cars and to ride their bikes.”
The details of the project have not yet reached their final stages.
“I’m for the project at Penn’s Landing if it increases green space and access to bike trails,” said Will Scheirer, a freshman environmental studies major and member of the Sustainability LLC.
“Overall, improving the quality of life in the city is vital to our community, but there has to be a balance with checking what’s best for the environment,” Julie Hancher from Green Philly Blog said in an email. “I do know that green space is something that helps reduce crime, stress and help communities. Whenever there is a new construction in Philadelphia there should be choices that make the best environmental call for the location, whether that means using recycled materials, products that can be reused again or simply without chemicals during the production or installation of the construction.”
So far, many residents have been vocal about DRWC’s projects.
“There’s a lot of public engagement about what’s going on at the waterfront,” Thompson said. “The DRWC holds regular public meetings – people have been concerned for a long time about Penn’s Landing’s future. The [Central Delaware Advocacy Group] grades the DRWC each year. People are absolutely engaged and involved about what is going on, and we encourage their comments.”
The CDAG is a volunteer organization that overlooks the “citywide visioning process,” according to the nonprofit’s website.
The project seems to be in favor in the public’s opinion, even after considering more than just the environmental impacts. The construction site is adjacent to South Street and Old City.
“We are a few years away from construction, but we would want to mitigate any effect on South Street,” Thompson said.
McDonald said there will be an impact on the area but assured it’s for the best.
“While any construction project presents challenges for the surrounding community, the end result is usually a substantial benefit for the rest of the city,” McDonald said.
Andrew Griffin can be reached at email@example.com.