Philadelphia’s North Delaware riverfront is evolving after years of work from the Delaware River City Corporation (DRCC) and its partners to advance the cause of a new recreational greenway and public spaces on this still somewhat industrial waterfront.
To guide this ongoing work, DRCC will get $125,000 from the Commonwealth Financing Authority to update its master plan for the Delaware River Greenway. State Senator John Sabatina announced the grant in early July, also allocating $85,000 for the creation of a new state-of-the-art playground in Bustleton.
The North Delaware River Greenway Master Plan, created in 2005, aimed to transform the largely industrial and inaccessible Delaware shoreline by adding recreational amenities. The plan envisioned different routes for a public greenway north of the Betsy Ross Bridge to the Bucks County line. It has been used by DRCC over the last decade to direct various stages of development and implementation for several projects along the estuary.
Stretching from Pulaski Park in Port Richmond 11 miles northward along the river to Glen Foerd, the greenway aims to provide residents with safe access to the river, continuous trails for increased access to recreational spaces, and shorelines that do more to support waterfront ecology.
The grant to update this plan comes as the DRCC looks to move into a new phase of development for the Greenway, said DRCC Executive Director Tom Branigan.
DRCC has focused its effort in recent years to realize, from planning to construction, several separate projects along the North Delaware. Among them, the construction and completion of the Port Richmond trail and Phase I of the Delaware Avenue Extension, which connected the Delaware Avenue to Bridge Street in Bridesburg. Other projects, like plans for a waterfront park on10-acre parcel of land at the end of Orthodox Street in Bridesburg, or stage 2 of the Delaware Avenue Extension, will be the continued focus of DRCC work.
But a lot has changed since the organization set out to transform the North Delaware waterfront more than a decade ago. A number of recent zoning changes and property transfers promise to reshape land along the river, and there remain some competing interests for industrial use of the land along the river.
Those changes, coupled with the changes in suggested in the North Delaware and River Wards District Plans, meant that the DRCC needed time to evaluate and tailor its new master plan that looked towards the next few years of development and construction.
DRCC has also broadened its collaboration with other organizations; Branigan points to ongoing projects with PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, as well as a desire to maintain strong working relationships and connections with the growing network of The Circuit Trails and the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation.
With new projects comes the added requirement for ongoing support and maintenance. DRCC has worked to program parks with movie nights, support volunteer activities and community plantings, and draw in more resources as completed projects grow in number.
The update to this plan, then, is a move towards the future for the DRCC. As they look to go after more resources and more partnerships, “an update [to our plan] is needed to better reflect what we’re doing and where we’re headed,” said Branigan.
The direction: Towards 11 miles of connected trail segments, connector streets linking communities to the waterfront, and a park in Bridesburg—all by 2021.