Thorp leaving DRWC for city water department

After nearly three years of guiding the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation’s planning for the Central Delaware Riverfront, Sarah Thorp is moving on.

Thorp’s last day with DRWC is Aug. 10. But the Fishtown resident isn’t going far away – she’ll be doing strategic planning for the Philadelphia Water Department.

Thorp joined DRWC as master plan manager in October 2009, then became director of planning. She oversaw the development of the Central Delaware Master Plan, which outlines the city’s vision to revitalize the waterfront between Oregon and Allegheny avenues through mixed-use development, green space connected by a multi-use trail, and the extension of the city’s street grid. She has also worked closely with city planning and zoning officials, both on the master plan and on related zoning designed to codify the plans goals, which is still in the works.

“It’s been a great experience,” Thorp said Friday morning, after the meeting at which DRWC Board Chairman Donn Scott announced her departure. “A great team of people worked through a very tough time of planning,” she said, and that plan has begun to influence the waterfront’s future.

Thorp said she is looking forward to “new challenges” at the city water department, which is recognized as a national leader in storm water management. In April, the city announced a 25-year partnership with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to transform many of the city’s impervious surfaces to green areas to better manage rainwater runoff.  This will involve “huge challenges,” Thorp said. She’s looking forward to them.

Throughout her time at DRWC, Thorp has often been the liaison with city residents, running community input sessions on the overall master plan and master plan projects, including the Race Street Pier, Race Street Connector and Columbia Avenue Connector. It was Thorp who attended city council and planning commission hearings to advocate for the plan, and who met with the Central Delaware Advocacy Group to give project and legislative updates and field questions.

“She’s such a face of DRWC,” noted Board Member Bill Wilson. Who would fill that role at DRWC with her departure?

Karen Thompson, said DRWC President Tom Corcoran. Thompson, a planner and project manager, has “been under Sarah’s tutelage now for a good year, and has established her own relationships now with CDAG, members of the community groups and all the governmental agencies.”

Corcoran agreed with Wilson that the public outreach role is very important, and noted that waterfront planning involves a lot of “daytime work, night time public meetings and outreach.”

Board Member Rina Cutler joked that Thompson has “Signed a thing that says, ‘I’ve given up my life for my organization.’”

Thorp, who was previously executive director of Delaware River City Corp., a non-profit that works to improve the city’s northern Delaware River waterfront, will begin working at the water department after Labor Day.  She says she won’t be a stranger to folks at DRWC, since nearly every project DRWC does has involved the water department. No word yet on her replacement as Director of Planning.

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