Inquirer Currents: Waterfront three years in the making

By Harris M. Steinberg

Executive director of Penn Praxis at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design

Tomorrow is the three-year anniversary of Mayor John F. Street’s signing of the executive order authorizing the planning of the central Delaware River waterfront.

Against the backdrop of rampant pre-Great Recession real estate speculation fueled by the specter of two casinos, the planning process forged a rocky road across Philadelphia’s long-suffering planning and development landscape. Led by Penn Praxis and funded by the William Penn Foundation, the process engaged more than 6,000 Philadelphians in the creation of an action plan for the riverfront that would extend Philadelphia’s intimate fabric of human-scaled streets and parks across the chasm of I-95 to the largely suburban geography of the automobile-scarred central Delaware.

Today, the vision has been embraced by the city, serving as the basis for zoning legislation – introduced by Councilman Frank DiCicco and passed in June by City Council – that establishes public-access standards along the river. These are significant accomplishments that benefit Philadelphians. Indeed, one need only look at the Action Plan for the Central Delaware, released last year, to see that many of its goals have been achieved:

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