New fishing pier coming to South Philadelphia

Pier 68 will become a public fishing pier under a plan being developed by The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation.

“This is the next new park we plan to do on the waterfront,” DRWC Planner/Project Manager Lizzie Woods told the DRWC board at Thursday morning’s meeting.

An RFP has been issued seeking designers and builders for the pier, which DRWC acquired about a year and a half ago, along with several other piers in South Philadelphia behind the Walmart and Home Depot.

“We know there is a very strong demand for fishing access on the waterfront,” Woods said. While the future park will be “very heavily focused on fishing,” other “direct recreational activities,” such as launching kayaks, may also become part of the plan, said DRWC Vice President for Operations and Development Joe Forkin.

The RFP calls for places to temporarily dock small boats, fish-cleaning stations, the creation of wetlands. It also asks for the creation of on-line or mobile methods for people to interact with the park, “for example by using mobile applications or other social media outlets to record and document information they observe, such as tidal intervals, fish species, or other wildlife.”

DRWC will interview the short list of potential firms next month, with the goal of the board awarding a contract in December.

DRWC Vice President for Marketing, Programming and Corporate Partnerships Jodie Milkman said the goal is to have the park done by the second week of next August, when a Bassmaster Fishing Tournament will be held in Philadelphia, on the Delaware River. DRWC is in discussions with the tournament to hold it at Penn’s Landing, she said. The fishing pier could also get national television exposure.

Pier 68 was chosen as the next pier park for several reasons.

Of the piers DRWC acquired on the southern end of the Central Delaware, “This was one that was in the best condition, that needed the least amount of structural work to be able to use it,” Woods said.

It is also marks the southern boundary of the area where the Central Delaware Master Plan calls for a wetlands park. Design work is already underway for the pier that is the northern boundary, Pier 53. The two pier parks will be connected by the Central Delaware Multipurpose Trail, which has already been built along the water in this area.Pier 53 is expected to be finished by Summer 2014.

DRWC has about $750,000 to do the Pier 68 project now, and Woods said it can be done very well within that budget, but more funds are being sought that would allow for more options. One possibility: Sponsorships by fishing gear companies. Another possibility: Using some of the $5 million the William Penn Foundation just donated to DRWC. See story.

Board Member Marilyn Jordan Taylor, who is dean of the Penn School of Design, said having more money available is a good idea, because sometimes things are discovered once work begins that can require additional funds.

The project area excludes the eastern tip of the pier, which has deteriorated.

Board Vice Chair Jay Goldstein asked if the unusable part would be removed, or fenced off. Forkin said that would be determined in the design phase.

Goldstein and Taylor suggested it be eliminated. Having an area beyond the fence would prove irresistible, and that would present a liability, they said.

Besides, Taylor added, “I hope we have something that looks more finished than that.”

The DRWC board received updates on several other on-going projects:

Pier 53

The future Pier 53 boardwalk will be built simultaneously with the rest of the park, thanks to cooperation from Pier 53 designers Applied Ecological Services and contractor Neshaminy Construction, Woods reported. A groundbreaking ceremony will be held either later this month or in November, with construction going through the winter if weather permits. The new park, on the site of Philadelphia’s former immigration pier, is expected to open next summer.

One design element will change, however, Woods said. The public art instillation at the pier’s river end “is still going to evoke the same sort of beacon,” but visitors won’t be able to climb into it, after all. Upon further consideration, DRWC determined that would both increase the cost and increase liability concerns. The updated version will go to the art commission for review Nov. 6.  Learn more about the project here.

Spring Garden Connector

RBA has “largely finalized” a streetscape master plan for the Spring Garden Connector, a project designed to better-link Northern Liberties and Old City with the waterfront, in the same way that the Race Street Connector links Old City at Race Street Pier. DRWC Planner/Project Manager Karen Thompson said some of the streetscape work will be done by DRWC, but “we anticipate some will be taken on by developers, as development happens” in the area.

Artist Leni Schwendinger has been refining her “tendrils” concept for the underpass’s lighting project, Thompson said. DRWC has been working with PennDOT and SEPTA to talk about technical aspects of how the art installation will work, given their need to do inspections. This project will also be before the art commission Nov. 6, for conceptual approval. Learn more here.

Penn’s Landing Redevelopment

Hargreaves is about halfway through the design process for the redevelopment of Penn’s Landing, Thompson said. “They now are doing the initial design concepts for the tilted park and other public space, and development massings,” she reported. The tilted park is a structure that would cover a portion of I-95 and Delaware Avenue, allowing people to walk from the city to the waterfront.  See previous coverage.

The first public meeting on this project is scheduled for 7 p.m., Oct. 15 at Festival Pier. Taylor noted this will be an update on the project and its progress, but the public won’t be asked for specific feedback on any ideas at this meeting. “I hope people are excited to see it, because we are,” she said.

Water taxis

Construction of gangways and floating docks for four water taxi stops will begin in about two to three weeks, Forkin said. The floating docks will be fabricated, but a decision has not been made whether to put them in place when they are done or wait until spring.

DRWC is paying for the project with a federal transit grant. The marina at the Penn’s Landing Basin, next to the Hyatt, will be the taxi’s home port. The other three stops: Next to the current ferry landing dock at Walnut Street; adjacent to Dave & Buster’s at Pier 19 and Festival Pier. Limited service will start next spring, with full service to follow if demand is there. DRWC owns three, 22-passenger water taxis.

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