Let's be frank: Temple University's boathouse was a crap pile. It was such a mess, the city condemned it five years ago. While Penn's F. Scott Fitzgeralds swan around their exquisitely preserved circa-1876 boathouse on Boathouse Row, Temple kids have been freezing their tuchuses off in rickety tents. No surprise, then, that the school proposed the construction of a new boathouse on the Schuylkill. Plans were drawn, stakeholders consulted, a preliminary environmental assessment was commissioned, and political backing—in the form of the district councilman Curtis Jones—was secured.
Thing is, Philly's got this whole green-space preservation thing going on now—new rules that mean if an entity takes public parkland for private use, it must provide alternative parkland, sort of like a game of park-preservation gin rummy. Temple says they couldn't find any parkland, but instead, the city can have a million bucks to fix up that condemned crap pile that used to be their boathouse. The parkland preservationists? Not happy.
City Paper's Samantha Melamed covered yesterday's Parks and Recreation hearing on the disagreement, and says all the carping is a moot point:
Councilman Curtis Jones, in whose district the parcel lies, sent an envoy, chief of staff Al Spivey, to the meeting. And Spivey was crystal clear: "We will use the weight of our office to make sure this comes to fruition," he said. "Whatever you [park commissioners] need to do to make this happen, I compel you to think about it." Ultimately, it's up to City Council, whose tradition of councilmanic prerogative means that the district councilman — aka Jones — will most likely get his way.
But today's Inquirer editorial on the matter suggests there's room for progress, particularly because this is the first time the newly formed parks panel is faced with this kind of decision:
And apart from the advantages of the approach offered by Temple, there's a clear risk that approving this deal as-is would set the wrong precedent.
Fortunately, Temple officials - after getting an earful this week - now say that they're open to "looking at the land option" and that they're "not locked in on any position," according a spokesman.
The editorial comes down, gently, in favor of Temple finding some land.
· Why arguments over Temple boathouse proposal won't matter
· Editorial: Is parkland preservation still important to city? [Inquirer]