Race Street Pier nears groundbreaking

April 6, 2010

By Thomas J. Walsh

For PlanPhilly

About 60 people came out on a beautiful, warm spring evening Tuesday to Festival Pier to take a closer look at the latest tweaks for the Race Street Pier, the forlorn quay that will be transformed by James Corner Field Operations, the consultant hired by the Delaware River Waterfront Corp.

The former Pier 11 is slated to be one of the first public spaces to be designed and built by the DRWC as part of the Civic Vision for the Central Delaware Riverfront, co-developed by PennPraxis and the Central Delaware Advocacy Group.

“I’m really excited about this,” said Avi Eden, a DRWC board member. “I think they did a terrific job on the High Line [in Manhattan].”

Eden said he’s also looking forward to future plans that would come in the wake of the pier’s development, across Columbus Boulevard at the Race Street underpass. “That will make the area pedestrian-friendly,” he said. There’s no time frame yet established for that project, though.

“This the culmination of a long but extremely productive process,” said Tom Corcoran, president of the DRWC.

Representatives from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, CDAG, PennPraxis and the DRWC led breakout groups in discussing design details for the park, giving opinions on materials, lighting and lamps, plantings, and site furnishings (benches, bike racks, a drinking fountain – even the trash cans). 

“Over the last couple of months, we’ve really been working out the materials, developing the details on … stormwater, all of the structural work, etcetera,” said Lisa Switkin, associate principal for Field Operations and the project manager for the Race Street Pier. “The primary changes were with some of the structural constraints.” 

Switkin said feedback from previous public sessions prompted her team to “soften some of the edges” and to get more shade and green area onto the pier. She took the audience through a technically detailed presentation about the dual levels of the pier and some of the challenges that have emerged – such as the very end of the pier, where it is most showing its age and decay. 

“The overall concept is really manipulating the topography,” Switkin said before the session got started. “So the idea of having a two-level pier, which we’re calling ‘The Slice,’ the upper level and lower level are basically negotiated by a large seating terrace step, at the edge of the pier. That’s one of my favorite spots.”

Contact the reporter at ThomasWalsh1@gmail.com.

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