The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) has had many major accomplishments over the past year which were significant in themselves. But they are also part of a larger narrative about how a vision gets created, how it is embraced by key elected officials, civic associations, founders and partners, and then how it gets implemented. In this case, the vision is the Civic Vision for the Central Delaware, a two year effort that was led by Penn Praxis, an arm of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, and funded by the William Penn Foundation.
This effort had the active involvement of several thousand participants who wanted to have the City residents and visitors gain access to the beautiful Delaware River and have the opportunity for active and passive recreation along its banks. The vision also involved creating new economic development opportunities for the City and its residents.
Creating the vision and engendering public support for the vision was the critical first step toward realization. But there were other crucial elements involved as well: the adoption of the vision by key elected officials; the creation of a professional organization that had as its sole mission the implementation of that vision; and the initial funding to design and build early action projects that will begin to transform the vision into reality.
Mayor Michael Nutter, along with City Councilman Frank DiCicco, played the key leadership role in having the City of Philadelphia
adopt the Civic Vision as the blueprint for the development of the Central Delaware Waterfront. He then took the next step to create a new non-profit organization–the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation and charged it with the implementation of the vision. He appointed 16 directors with specialized expertise in relevant fields to provide the governance and oversight so that DRWC could act in a professional, open, transparent, and accountable fashion and along the way get a lot done with limited resources.
Over the past year, with the ongoing support of the Mayor, the Councilman, the Commonwealth, the Central Delaware Advocacy Group (CDAG), the William Penn Foundation, Penn Praxis and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, DRWC has completed a series of what were termed as “Early Action Projects.” These projects included the creation of an interim bike trail along the southern part of the waterfront; the design and construction of a wonderful new park called Washington Avenue Green; and coming soon the opening of the Race Street Pier.
Starting early in 2010, DRWC also undertook the development of a Master Plan for the entire six mile stretch of the Central Delaware, which is the area defined by Oregon Avenue in the South to Allegheny in the North, and from I-95 to the river. That effort, which was funded by a $1 million grant from the William Penn Foundation, allowed DRWC to hire a world-class team of urban planners and design firms. DRWC has had two large scale public forums and countless smaller stakeholder and community meetings, to insure that the work is faithful to the civic vision and has sustained community input and support.
When completed this spring, the Master Plan will not only create a framework for the long term transformation of this wonderful stretch of Riverfront, but will also set forth a list of priority projects that DRWC will undertake over the next five years in order to continue the momentum that has been established by the “Early Action Projects” and to provide key building blocks for the implementation of the ultimate plan. The recent announcement of an extraordinary $5 million grant from the William Penn Foundation will allow DRWC to accelerate some of those projects from a five year to a two year horizon.
DRWC intends to leverage these grant funds at every opportunity by obtaining matching grants from various governmental agencies and foundations so this list of exciting projects can systematically be moved from concept to design to construction.
2011 promises to be a very busy and exciting year for DRWC and for all of its stakeholder organizations and supporters.
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