How-to Penn’s Landing study underway

The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation Board of Directors also learned Friday that construction would soon begin on the north side of the Race Street connector, saw a new Pier 53 rendering and got a tour of the in-the-works Fringe Arts building.

The team of architects and engineers determining how best to revamp Penn’s Landing is examining the logistics of building a wide bridge with a park atop it, connecting the city to the water.

Hargreaves Associates and their team “Have already begun to take a look at how to make the transition in grade – from 32 feet at viaduct to the waterfront, at four feet,” Delaware River Waterfront Corporation Planning Committee Chair Marilyn Jordan Taylor reported to the full DRWC board Friday. The team is examining how to provide parking below the park, and tie everything to development sites.

Project elements in addition to the highway cap over I-95 include:

  • Development of a six-acre site at Market Street

  • Redevelopment of the four-acre western and southern edges of the Marina Basin site with mid-rise residential, commercial and other uses.

  • Extending the South Street pedestrian bridge – which now ends in a parking lot on the west side of Delaware Avenue – to Penn’s Landing

The design team is refining those goals, Taylor said. For example, the thinking is that housing will be attractive to younger professionals and empty nesters “who might want to come over and be part of the neighborhood around the basin, and the new Penn’s Landing,” she said.

They are also studying food and beverage and entertainment options “that will not be like Center City, but will take special advantage of the water,” she said.

The work, which also includes phasing and cost estimates for each phase, will continue through late fall or early winter. Taylor said she will continue to update the board. “We are pleased with the way it has started,” she said.

The DRWC manages city-owned waterfront property and oversaw the development of the master plan that will guide future development between Oregon and Allegheny avenues. But its other arm focuses on riverfront events.

Taylor said waterfront events help get the public thinking about the waterfront. They come and have a good time, and become interested in the development projects, she said. Taylor said that’s why news brought to the board by program committee chair Diane Dalto Woosnam was so exciting.

Woosnam said DRWC was u sing a $310,000 grant from ArtPlace America to transform the Boat Basin at Penn’s Landing into “Philadelphia’s summer lounge” with music and events and places to relax. “It will set a new standard for summer time,” she said. The work is expected to take about a year.

DRWC Vice President Jodi Milkman also spoke of synergy between events and physical improvements. She thinks people who are coming to the DRWC’s new website to learn about events are also learning about the developments, and vice-versa.

The average length of time visitors stay on the site is three minutes – much longer than it would take to just look up a time or address, she said. Some individuals pages have generated 250,000 views, she said.

“The website is an interactive project,” said Communications Committee Chair Bill Miller. “We’re not just effectively communicating with our audience, but we’re data gathering. It’s an invaluable tool for planning for the future..”

Milkman said analytics are still being refined, but it was already clear that while the majority of site visors are from Greater Philadelphia, there are significant numbers from central and northern Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey and Northern Delaware.

Other project updates included:

Pier 53

DRWC Planner/Program Manager Lizzie Woods showed the board a new rendering of the pier portion of the park, which will be finished by next summer. DRWC received the necessary permits from the city water department, she said, and she anticipates the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state Department of Environmental Protection permits will be in hand by early fall, when construction will start. Artist Jody Pinto is refining her work, which will nod to one of the pier’s former lives, as Philadelphia’s immigration station. She will present to the city art commission this fall, Woods said.

FringeArts Building

The transformation of an old water pumping station into FringeArts’ headquarters isn’t a DRWC project, but DRWCers embrace it as one of the first private projects along the Delaware – and one that furthers their mission. DRWC President Tom Corcoran said the project is on schedule. “By the end of September, the theater will be completed and open, as well as their offices and studio,” he said. An indoor restaurant and outdoor patio will be finished by spring, he said.

After the meeting, Corcoran and a few board members and staffers had a tour of the building to see progress so far. (See photos in slideshow)

Race Street Connector, Phase II

With an agreement from the Delaware River Port Authority in hand, construction will soon begin on the north side of the Race Street Connector – the lighting and street scape project designed to improve the trip between Old City and the Race Street Pier.

It took more than a year to reach a land use agreement with the DRPA, said Vice President Joe Forkin. He thanked city attorney Terry Garfinkel, who is now assigned to advise DRWC, with getting this done.

The south side of the connector opened in October 2011, and was among the very first projects along the Central Delaware Waterfront. It was completed before the city even adopted the Central Delaware Waterfront Master Plan, which calls for connector streets as one way to better connect the city to the Central Delaware and encourage development. While the north side has always been the second phase, getting started has taken longer than expected because of technical and safety issues and the need to work closely with PennDOT, the DRPA, city streets and the Federal Highway Administration to solve those problems.

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