In 1682, Welcome, the boat of William Penn, skimmed the Delaware River as it embarked upon the land that Penn would eventually envision as Philadelphia. His dreams were grand, as he laid down the grid of the city in rectangular plots beginning at the Delaware River. This configuration put the face of the city at the water’s edge, welcoming the wealth of a maritime economy. As such, the city had its most valuable and coveted land along the river where trade and logistics of the colony’s inland activities like farming and manufacturing were open to the world.
From that historical onset, Philadelphia’s waterfront grew from the green, unadulterated haven it was pre-Penn to a hard and bustling industrial edge. The heart of the city grew inland, leaving the waterfront for industrial activities while recreation and luxurious living sprouted in the city center. It wasn’t until about 300 years later, after much of the industrial activities had subsided and their waterfront lots and docks lay abandoned, that Penn’s original vision for a lush and inhabited waterfront re-emerged to the forefront of the city’s mind.
It was 1967 that brought the start of the waterfront’s revitalization. Recreational trails, walkways and outdoor installations brought life to the destination called Penn’s Landing, which served as the catalyst for development in this area. Once dilapidated properties now hold renewed value yet again in the eyes of developers. Only now, the economics of development point to new communities with recreation and vibrant outdoor green spaces for human occupation.
The Festival Pier project site is situated along the Delaware River just north of Penn’s Landing. Its redevelopment is guided by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation and the 2011 Central Delaware Master Plan – a 25-year plan that seeks to find balance between industry and new developments like parks and mid- to low-rise neighborhoods. This plan acts as the guiding document by which sustainable development should occur in the area.
The goals for waterfront development include enhancing the cultural, residential and commercial development along the river. Other objectives include increasing the presence and quality of public space along the river in hopes of attracting new visitors to the waterfront for recreation and commerce.
Creating a vitally connected string of activity along the waterfront is of utmost importance. Developments should foster growth and community presence, and promote mobility along the length of the river. This will be enhanced through a multi-modal recreational trail along Christopher Columbus Boulevard. The construction of this trail is already underway and includes both on-street and off-street segments.
The following images are conceptual studies produced by Marks Thomas that depict our ideas for the redevelopment of Festival Pier. It envisions medium- to low-density housing within a mix of attractive recreational and commercial programs throughout. The concept provides extensive public access to a revitalized waterfront, serving as a model development for quality urban design, architecture, environmental quality and urban amenities.
Please reach out for a deeper conversation about urban revitalization projects like this one.