What was once thought of a pipe dream is set to become reality: The state of Pennsylvania, City of Philadelphia, and the William Penn Foundation have committed to raising the last $10 million needed for the the Penn’s Landing capping and civic spaces project.
In an announcement on Friday, Governor Tom Wolfe, Mayor Jim Kenney, and Janet Haas of the William Penn Foundation announced that they have collectively committed to raise the remaining $10 million of the $225 million project, with the foundation stating that it’s “confident that these funds will be secured in a timely fashion.”
The news comes a few months after Kenney originally pledged $90 million toward the project in March. Days after, the William Penn Foundation and PennDOT each committed $15 million and $100 million.
With the Friday announcement came a slew of new renderings by Hargreaves and Associates for the proposed project, as well as a few new key details about what’s to come, including 1,500 new housing units, 500 hotel rooms, and more than 100,000-square-feet of retail, restaurants, and entertainment.
Four acres of I-95 will be capped over, running between Walnut and Chestnut Streets. This area will include a nice ice-skating rink, spray pools, and cafe, and the Irish and Scottish memorials.
Also between Walnut and Chestnut will be an eight-acre space that will slope down from the east side of Columbus Boulevard to the river, replacing the 40-year-old deteriorated Great Plaza.
The South Street Bridge will feature an “architecturally distinctive extension from its current terminus on the west side of Columbus to the Penn’s Landing Marina.” A two-mile on-road section of the Delaware River Trail will be built from Spring Garden Street to Washington Avenue.
One person that’s been waiting for this moment for a long time is John Brady, the president and CEO of the Independence Seaport Museum, which is located right between the Blue Cross RiverRink and Spruce Street Harbor Park.
“It’s really a game changer,” the museum CEO told Curbed Philly in an interview prior to the Friday announcement. “We’re completely enthusiastic about the park and think it will be transformation for us as well, and the waterfront in general.”
The Independence Seaport Museum into its current location in the mid-1990s, after starting out as a shop on a barge on the Delaware River. “We’ve been a presence and an attraction here through thick and thin, and so it’s nice to see it finally pay off,” Brady said.
One of the most important reasons for the $225 million project that the DWRC and Brady both agree with is that it will bring some much-needed accessibility to and from the waterfront. When the I-95 highway was built in the 1970s, it negatively affected the city and residents in that it became a literal barrier to the waterfront and thereby development.
That divide is expected to be remedied with the proposed four-acre capping, the extension of the South Street Bridge, and construction of new trails.
“I’ve always thought that we are in the perfect location for our mission,” said Brady, “and the only issue has been the perception that we’re separate from the city.”
Since PennPraxis released its master plan for the Central Delaware waterfront, Brady and his team at the museum have been spending the past few years firming up its own plans to improve its space along the waterfront to keep in step with it’s ongoing and future transformation. Brady has kept a close eye on the successes of programming like Spruce Street Harbor Park, as well as Washington Avenue Green, Pier 68, and Race Street Pier.
The museum CEO envisions renovations to the current structure that will bring more glass “to make it more friendly and allow people to see in and out—we obviously have fantastic views of both the river and the park, and we would really like to make changes to the building that play to that.”
The design process, including wrangling permits and construction documents, is expected to wrap up by the end of 2019, while construction is expected to take about three years, the DWRC said.
Brady says, “Once the park is in, the location is just going to be spectacular and it moves from being a place that’s just important for what we do to being a place in the city that I’ve got to visit.”
- William Penn Foundation, PennDOT commit $115M total to cap I-95 [Curbed Philly]
- Mayor Kenney to propose $90M for I-95 capping [Curbed Philly]
- $10M Study Announced to Cover I-95 Around Penn's Landing [Curbed Philly]