Full riverfront master plan soon to be released. Can the decades-long schedule be halved?

Two weeks from Monday, the full draft of the Master Plan for the Central Delaware Waterfront will be published on the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation website. It will be ready for public comment.

A 30-day public review period will end in mid-August, DRWC Board Member and Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Planning Alan Greenberger said in his report to the executive committee. Then until mid-September, comments from the public – as well as the DRWC board and staff – will be analyzed and incorporated into the report as deemed appropriate.

About a month later, in September or early October, the plan will be released. It will be presented to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (Greenberger is the chairman) at its October meeting.

A preliminary summary of the report was released last month, at a packed event at the Festival Pier.  “I was surprised at the turnout,” DRWC Chairman Donn Scott said. “Every chair was taken.”

“There is a lot of continued passion for this,” Greenberger said, in part because the public sees that the city is taking it seriously.

Speaking of the city’s serious attitude, Scott had questions about something Mayor Michael Nutter said at the June meeting. “We have been talking about a 30-year timeline” to implement the majority of the waterfront rejuvenation program the plan calls for,” Scott said. “I heard the chief executive for the city say he wanted to cut that in half. So my question is, what timeline are we working on?”

“Thirty heading toward fifteen,” quipped DRWC President Tom Corcoran. When the laughter subsided, Scott followed up with a serious question: Does the mayor’s desire to quicken the pace signify more city money for the public programs – such as parks every half-mile – the master plan calls for?

“There is certainly willingness to try to put money toward the process,” Greenberger said. But the city’s ability to funnel more money to the riverfront depends on a lot of things out of its control,  he said, such as the economy and federal and state funding.

Greenberger assured Vice Chairman Jay Goldstein that city leaders realize the DRWC’s ability to pick up the pace depends directly on its ability to put funds together.

Greenberger also said that much of the plan calls for private sector development, and that depends on market forces. An accelerated schedule assumes that the economy will continue to improve, he said, and that remains to be seen.

Corcoran said that by mid-September, the DRWC plans to release a list of the next waterfront projects to be tackled. Although the master plan isn’t officially complete, it’s major goals have been public for a long time, and some “early action” items, including the Race Street Pier, Race Street Pier Connector, multi-use trial, and Washington Avenue Green at Pier 53, are already complete or underway.

Reach the reporter at kgates@planphilly.com.

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