Rendering of Penns Landing
A four-acre park across I-95 and replacing the mostly paved surfaces of Penn’s Landing with a sloping 11 acres of additional green and recreation space, restaurants, shops and residences, would better connect Philadelphia to the Delaware River, and turn a $250-million public investment into $1.8 billion in economic growth, according to a feasibility study released to the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC).
Projections say the park would eventually be framed with 1,500 new residences, 500 new hotel rooms, and 75,000 square feet of new retail space. It would take 35 years to fully build-out the private development, but the improvements in the public spaces, including the big new park, would be finished in about five to seven years.
Raising the $250 million: DRWC – the quasi-city agency that manages the public land on the Central Delaware and is overseeing the implementation of the city’s vision to revamp the 6-mile stretch – said the fundraising effort starts immediately.
DRWC President Tom Corcoran said having the “concrete framework” for what can be done at the river is an important milestone – it is something to show possible investors and a way to explain to them what their money would buy now and help bring about in the future. He also noted that much of the project involves transportation infrastructure, and that can be funded via governental transportation budgets.
There’s a vast green lawn between Chestnut and Walnut, carried across I-95 with a bridge-like structure. Someone walking from city to river would experience a slight upward slope at first to allow for the roadways beneath. The park is landscaped with trees and crossed with walking paths. Jones said care was taken with both the sloping and tree placement to ensure a visual, as well as physical, connection to the river. It is broken up by spaces designed for specific activities, including an ice rink that by summer could be a spray-ground. There are places for activities like playing soccer and places to just chill.
Many cities are cut off from their waterfronts by a highway, and Philadelphia isn’t the first to try to reunite neighborhoods and waterways, Jones said. But Philadelphia has a rare opportunity: I-95 and Columbus Boulevard aren’t right at the water’s edge. So once across those barriers, there is substantial room not only for trails and park space, but for private development.
The $250 million covers public investment only: The design and building of the big cap over the highway and slope down to the water known as Penn’s Landing Park, a river-side swimming pool on a floating barge, a concert amphitheater, the waterfront trail, and other amenities.
The idea here – and one of the driving principles behind the waterfront master plan – is that all of this new public realm would make private developers want to build housing, retail and restaurants both via RFP on city owned land and on land near the water or on the edges of the existing neighborhoods.
The plan doesn’t call just for better connections between the existing neighborhoods of Old City, Northern Liberties, Society Hill and the waterfront. It calls for the creation of two entirely new neighborhoods: One clustered around the basin at Penn’s Landing and one at the foot of Market Street.
Over the next six weeks, DRWC is releasing more details about specific elements of the study, from transportation to public realm, private develoment to financial aspects.