Standing in front of the dilapidated Pier 68 in South Philadelphia Thursday afternoon, Mayor Michael Nutter unveiled plans for its restoration.
Expected to be completed next year, plans for the pier include a picnic grove, shady places to rest, and a floating wetlands. The end of the pier will be reserved for fishing.
The city also plans to extend the Central Delaware bike trail south, to make access to the area easier from north of Penn’s Landing and the soon-to-be-opened Pier 53.
“This park, along with the park at Pier 53, will supply much-needed green space right here in South Philadelphia,” said Nutter. “Quite honestly, this is a section of the city that needs more green space, and folks want it.”
The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, established in 2009, has been planning this project for about a year. Pier 68 will be the third pier restored in what DRWC president Tom Corcoran described as a master plan to build a park every half mile along a six-mile stretch of the water.
“Each one of these parks will be different,” said Corcoran. “Each one serves a different purpose, but together they’ll form a necklace of parks going up and down the river.”
The project will cost about $1.7 million, and was funded in part by a $200,000 donation from the pier’s closest neighbor, Walmart. The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development also kicked in a $250,000 grant.
Most of the concrete pier is stable enough to keep, but a lot of it is in bad shape. Shrubs are growing from many cracks in the concrete; the end of the pier has crumbled into the Delaware; and the pier itself is in an industrial part of town, tucked behind a Walmart, and not easily accessible.
The Central Delaware bike trail along the waterfront ends about a half-mile north of the pier.
“It’s understandable to feel a little skeptical because you look around and say, ‘Gee, that’s a bit of a rough area,'” said Alan Greenberger, deputy mayor for commerce and economic development.
“I think we’re going to get a lot of attendance. South Philly is a very dense area and this is a great release — green spaces, relaxation, shade by the water, cool breezes, and the entertainment of fishing.”
Greenberger said that the city had acquired property behind the Walmart that was originally going to be the location of the Foxwood Casino, but now will be a residential neighborhood.
Part of the city’s focus is on renovation of “connector” streets, or places where there is a natural pathway to the waterfront. He said the city was looking at Tasker Street, which connects into Pennsport.
“It’s a big vision, but you have to do it incrementally, that’s just the reality of our lives right now,” said Greenberger. “But I know what you’re going to see. In a few years people will look back and say, ‘When did all that change?’ It’s going to feel like it happened overnight.”