Down by the river

Northeast Times
By Tom Waring
Times Staff Writer

As a longtime city councilman who represented a district centered in Northwest Philadelphia, Michael Nutter knew little of the vast grounds along the northern Delaware River waterfront.

As the Democratic nominee for mayor, Nutter wants to familiarize himself with the largely undeveloped land.
The candidate contacted Delaware River City Corporation officials, who arranged a grand tour for him on Friday.
Nutter took a van tour, starting at Pulaski Park in Port Richmond and heading north to Pleasant Hill Park in East Torresdale. In between, he saw the sights in the Bridesburg, Wissinoming, Tacony and Holmesburg portions of the waterfront.

To say the least, he was impressed.
“I’m tremendously excited,” he said. “There’s an incredible amount of land and property the city owns. It gives us a tremendous opportunity for growth, development, open space and trails.”

Among those joining Nutter on the two-hour-plus, eight-mile journey were DRCC officials Sarah Thorp and Bob Borski, a former congressman; Jim Donaghy, a deputy city managing director; and Patrick Starr, vice president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

By next summer, two projects should be completed, thanks to $1 million in funding from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

One would be a two-thirds mile extension of an existing trail at the Pennypack on the Delaware park, just north of Rhawn Street.

The other would be creation of Lardner’s Point Park on a 4.5-acre park near Levick Street for picnicking, fishing and passive recreational activities.

By 2009, three more projects should be completed, largely from federal funds secured by U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz.
Two of the projects would add a combined 5.7 miles of trail, while the other would be a city Department of Streets effort to extend Delaware Avenue from Lewis Street to Buckius Street.

Three projects remain unfunded. Two of them would add 3.3 miles of trail, with the other extending Delaware Avenue to Carver Street.

The long-talked-about development finally seems to be coming to fruition.
“It takes years, but we have a lot of irons in the fire,” said Donaghy, the deputy managing director who is also vice chairman of the DRCC.

Borski, a state representative for six years before serving in Congress from 1983 to 2002, is widely credited with having the vision to do something about the vacant land along the river. Talk of a “river renaissance” began in the mid-1990s.

On last week’s slow-paced ride, Borski and the others showed Nutter every nook and cranny the Delaware River waterfront has to offer.

“Most people in Northeast Philly don’t know these things exist,” said Borski, chairman of the DRCC.
The DRCC promotes itself as the principal advocate and watchdog to ensure that river projects are funded and implemented in a proper and timely manner.

Besides the work to build trails and extend Delaware Avenue, the organization is dealing with private developers at four sites.

At Orthodox Street, there are plans for housing and retail stores at the former Philadelphia Coke site.
At Magee Avenue, housing will be built on the old Dodge Steel location.
At Princeton Avenue, Tacony Pointe will feature housing on ground once occupied by an Army manufacturing plant.
Just south of Rhawn Street, Independence Pointe will include houses, a hotel, a health club and commercial uses. However, development of the onetime Northern Shipping property is delayed because two individuals claim to own the ground.

In each of the private development projects, the DRCC will insist that the public have access to the river with a 50-foot setback from the water and 20-foot-wide trails.

Thorp, the executive director of the DRCC, said the combination of public and private revitalization efforts will wow the public.

“It’s really exciting,” she said. “We’re doing the behind-the-scenes work now, but in the next two years, there will be a huge transformation.” ••

The Delaware River City Corporation invites the public to walk the K & T Trail on Saturday, Aug. 18, from 10 a.m. to noon. Guests will meet at Levick Street and the Delaware River and walk to Princeton Avenue.

For more information on development on the Delaware River waterfront, visit
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or [email protected]


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