Philadelphia has stumbled through development of the Delaware River waterfront for decades. A plan being unveiled Monday would change that: dotting the riverfront between Oregon and Allegheny Avenues with parks, connected by a bike and walking trail.
At one spot on the planned transformation, cars flew past the corner of Washington Avenue and Columbus Boulevard--near the big box stores. Right now it is hard to imagine a little green oasis could be so close. But there it was: hiding just behind the Sheet Metal Workers Union and the Coast Guard building. With singing birds and lapping water, this little patch of green is part of the plan to transform the Delaware River Waterfront.
"Having Tai Chi classes here is beautiful because we face east, that's how you start out the classes, and so we are looking out on the water and it's really a pleasant environment," said Pennsport resident Dianne Mayer. Mayer is with the group Neighbors Allied for the Best Riverfront. She pointed to remnants of an old pier sticking out of the water.
"Phase 2 of the plan is to re-model the pier that goes out in a naturalized way," she said. "There will be a walking path that goes out to the end. We hope to have maybe a bird's nest, a bird viewing area, and...this is to be a wetland in here."
But making plans for the Waterfront is nothing new.
"Philadelphia has in the past dreamed of overly-ambitious projects for the Riverfront, which did not come to fruition, which left us with a continuing problem of lack of development," said Steven Weixler. He is chairman of the Central Delaware Advocacy Group, a coalition of representatives from neighborhood civic associations. Wexler said it's time for Philadelphia to set realistic goals,
"The Master Plan I believe fits well for Philadelphia in that it is not overly ambitious in terms of large residential development or big developments that would require huge amounts of investment from the public and private sector and that over the next 20 years or so we can get some sensible Philadelphia-style development along the riverfront that really works for the neighborhoods adjacent and for the city in general," said Wexler.
Philadelphia lawyer Michael Sklaroff has another way of looking at it,
"The plan is a modest plan with modest risk and modest reward built into it," Sklaroff said. Sklaroff is chair of "The Development Workshop" a trade organization comprised of developers, architects, and others.
"There should be ample room for destination entertainment, hotel and high rise residential development," said Sklaroff. "It's unclear to me whether the plan and the zoning that follows will make sufficient accommodation for that."
Sklaroff said while funding is directed at the waterfront projects, neighborhoods and other parks in the city will still need money.
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