With Race Street Pier scheduled to open as a new park this spring, a plan to create a live arts venue with a restaurant in a former pumping station across the street, and the intent to soon solicit ideas to revamp Pier 9, members of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation's executive committee are feeling good about what's happening on this part of Delaware Avenue.
“We are building some exciting features,” said DRWC President Tom Corcoran. “With the Pier, the Race Street Connector, and the Fringe Festival, it's a real heat island of activity.” Board member and Penn Design School dean Marilyn Jordan Taylor said she was recently reviewing a progress report on the master plan, and “I was impressed, even though I've been a part of it.”
The Race Street Pier project is the furthest along. The plan for the rebar that will serve as the foundation of the elevated portion of the park – the sky promenade, is expected to be approved this week, said DRWC Vice President for Operations and Development Joe Forkin, and then work will begin in earnest. So far the project is on time and on budget, Forkin said, “we're just hoping that we don't get that much more snow this winter.”
Last week, DRWC, the city and the William Penn Foundation announced a $5 million grant for riverfront projects. “This award from William Penn could not possibly be bettered timed,” Taylor said. She said the infusion of money shows the “validity” of the still-in-the-works Master Plan for the Central Delaware. While the plan isn't finished, the projects that have already been completed – Washington Avenue Green and a portion of the multi-purpose trail – and the activity on and around Race Street Pier were identified as “early action” items, designed to show the public this plan was different from those sitting on shelves somewhere. And the $5 million infusion, plus another $1.3 million from the state, provides money to keep the momentum going, DRWC members said.
For example, some of that grant money will be used for the Race Street Connector project – an art, lighting and landscaping plan designed to encourage people to take Race Street under several overpasses and down to the waterfront. Sketches for the first phase of the connector project – the part that focuses on pedestrians and bicyclists – are expected in mid-February, Forkin said.
Along the path of the connector and across Delaware Avenue from Race Street Pier sits a red brick building that was once a pumping station. The city has approved its sale to the Philadelphia Live Arts/Philly Fringe Festival, and the organization plans to turn it into a venue for live performances and workshops, and also have a restaurant/outdoor cafe, Corcoran said.
DRWC Chairman Donn Scott asked when this might happen. Board member Jay Goldstein said it would take awhile because of the work that will have to be done inside to convert the space. In an earlier conversation with PlanPhilly, Forkin said that much of the interior is taken up by huge pipes from the pumping station days. Corcoran said he's been told the organization hopes to open in spring or summer of 2012.
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