A rising tide lifts all ships on Delaware River Development

by Joan L. Krajewski

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Mayor Street’s executive order a few weeks ago to create a master plan for the “Central Delaware River” has Northeast Philadelphians applauding as well. That’s because the mayor, in his remarks during the announcement, singled out the Delaware River City Corporation as the model for redeveloping the riverfront.

Developing the waterfront from Allegheny Avenue south to Oregon-which includes a plan for Penn’s Landing-is expected to involve a public-private partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, a 45-member advisory group and input from about 15 community organizations. A major challenge, no doubt. No less serious, of course, are our efforts in the Northeast to redevelop the 11-mile corridor between Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown to the historic Glen Foerd Mansion in Torresdale. Our plan envisions a revitalized riverfront with new housing communities and thousands of new residents; a greenway trail where the old Kensington-Tacony (K & T) Railroad once traveled; restored habitat for waterfowl and tidal wetlands; and, perhaps most importantly, public access to the breathtaking beauty of the North Delaware Riverfront. In addition, a river road will provide a new route for vehicular traffic in Bridesburg, as well as provide access points for new housing and public recreation along the water.

Pleasant Hill Park and the popular fish hatchery in Torresdale will be the beneficiaries of a new master plan to enhance their natural beauty and viability. Historic Lardner’s Point and its tranquil view at the foot of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge will become the home of a new fishing spot and trailhead park. Both of these parks connect to the river trail. Every weekend, thousands of Philadelphians hit the Jersey shore or head up to the Poconos for sport fishing, how great would it be if they stayed right here in Philadelphia and pulled “the big one” out of our Delaware waters?

For many years, residents of the Northeast have been denied access to most of the riverfront. Today, thanks to support from federal, state, and local officials, as well as the work and commitment from area businesspersons and concerned residents, we have created a dynamic plan for both a regional riverfront corridor and existing industrial plants to coexist for the betterment of Philadelphia. This is not just a “pie-in-the-sky” venture. There are hard dollars in place to substantially invigorate the riverfront. A $26 million federal appropriation will pay for the trail and park improvements. Four major housing developments are planned: the former Philadelphia Coke site in Bridesburg, the old Dodge Steel plant and former Tacony Army Warehouse, both in Tacony; and the old Northern Shipping marine terminal in Holmesburg. We are working closely with these developers and securing promises from them that these projects will not prohibit public access to the riverfront. This is no small point; the dialogue here has been productive, and the builders are listening to our concerns.

We began this task with the creation of the Northeast Riverfront Task Force, chaired by former U.S. Rep. Bob Borski, with input and support from more than 100 people in the areas of government, business, the community, and non-profits. We worked long and hard to include the best and the brightest, so that the proud communities along the river would have a meaningful seat at the table. Committees were formed to examine a greenway plan, the K & T trail and signage, and ecological restoration. The result was a landmark study: the North Delaware Riverfront Greenway master plan, which presents exciting scenarios for the 700 acres of vacant and underutilized land along the riverfront. I am proud of this plan because of its inclusiveness; the concerns of all Northeast Philadelphians are addressed, and the benefits to the region as a whole are plainly evident.

Today, taking the lead on this issue is the Delaware River City Corporation, which was officially chartered earlier this year and makes its so-called public debut on Friday during a press conference at the Pennypack Park fields. Former Congressman Borski chairs the DRCC, with support from 10 outstanding professionals who form the board of directors. After an extensive search, they recently hired an executive director, Sarah M. Thorp, a Fishtown resident and University of Iowa graduate, who earned a Masters degree at the University of Pennsylvania. The DRCC meets regularly and takes an active role in all development plans along the North Delaware.

As a lifelong resident of the so-called “River Wards,” I am proud to lend my support and encouragement to this effort. The people of Northeast Philadelphia deserve nothing less than the very best riverfront redevelopment plan possible. We have the components in place to preserve and enhance this valuable public asset for future generations to come. When William Penn discovered Pennsylvania in 1681 he was so smitten with the Delaware riverfront that he built his house, Pennsbury Manor, on its riverbanks. I am sure he envisioned that the people would soon follow his lead and build their residential, recreational and business communities on the water. That was over 300 years ago, but we’re better late than never.

(Councilwoman Joan L. Krajewski represents the 6th District on the river from Port Richmond to Torresdale)


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