Race Street Pier officially opens to the public today, but some folks got a good look at the just-finished park at last night's pre-opening gala, which raised about $75,000 for performing arts along the waterfront.
“Spectacular! Spectacular! Spectacular!” is how Mayor Michael Nutter described the pier, which he called the first major step toward making Philadelphia's waterfront the nation's finest.
The full-sized trees that line the upper portion of the new park were in full leaf.
The grassy lawn attracted a few romping kids. People gathered on benches and on the terraced levels that lead from the lawn and brick-lined lower level to the upper deck. Workers had finished up just hours before.
“I think this represents what we can do,” said Donn Scott, chairman of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, the quasi-city agency charged with developing the master plan that will guide the redevelopment of the stretch of Delaware Riverfront between Oregon and Allegheny avenues for decades to come.
While the plan won't be released until June, this pier project was deemed an “early action item,” designed to prove to Philadelphians that this plan will not gather dust like its predecessors.
“There are so few cities that have something like this,” said Micah Hanson, of Fishtown Neighbors Association and the Central Delaware Advocacy Group, a conglomeration of representatives from riverfront neighborhood and organizations that exists to fight for the vision Philadelphia residents outlined for the waterfront.
The process included more than a year of public meetings that proceeded the master plan process.
“It's a great day,” said First District Councilman Frank DiCicco, who urged former mayor John Street to start the process that led to this attempt to re-do the waterfront. “I've been saying for years that Philadelphia is a great city with great potential, and the waterfront is a key component of that.”
Mayor Nutter on what the pier means for the waterfront
DRWC Board Member and PennDesign Dean Marilyn Jordan Taylor
DiCicco said Race Street Pier is a fantastic new public amenity – one that will convince the private sector to develop parcels nearby. He gestured toward Pier 9 next door, and said the new park certainly made that a very attractive spot for mixed-use residential development.
Design firm principal James Corner
James Corner Field Operation's Lisa Switkin, the pier's lead designer, walked along the completed park for the first time last night. “It's always kind of an amazing experience thinking about a concept and then seeing it realized,” she said.
She was pleased with how it turned out. “It's true to its spirit,” she said. “It was meant to be a simple, powerful ideal that would also allow for a variety of social spaces.”
The split levels makes the one-acre park feel bigger than it really is, she said. Her favorite part is the tip of the upper level, which stands about 13 feet above the water.
The park opens to everyone with a ribbon cutting at 2 p.m. today.
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