Race Street Pier banks on river’s appeal

    One of the challenges of developing the Delaware River waterfront is getting the residents of Philadelphia to acknowledge its existence. Interstate 95 has effectively blocked the river as a recreational site.

    The Race Street Pier is the first significant step in a revived effort to make the Delaware a destination. It will officially open Thursday.

    Because the pier is relatively small–it’s only an acre in size over all–the designers created more volume by giving it height. There’s an upper tier planted with 37 white swamp oak trees, and another level closer to the water.

    It’s designed to draw people out over the water, in effect allowing people to discover the river.

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    “You’re never aware–you sort of never have an awareness that the Delaware River is there,” said Lisa Swtikin, a partner with the firm James Corner Field Operations. “It’s always hidden or below. You never get a clear view of it. Part of this idea of the design begins to create a procession and open up the river.”

    One of the chief assets of the Race Street Pier is the Ben Franklin Bridge, whose mighty blue span creates drama for the green space jutting out over the river.

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