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The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region. We seek to build on the region’s assets and enhance the economic competitiveness of Greater Philadelphia. We have long believed that the Delaware River is one of our region’s most significant assets. For more than a decade, the Foundation has sought to promote the historically industrialized Delaware Riverfront as a both a natural and community resource.

In recent years the riverfront has experienced tremendous redevelopment pressure. However, due to the absence of an effective master plan and weak land use controls, most of this development has occurred in an ad-hoc and uncoordinated manner, raising concerns that the city would fail to fully maximize the waterfront’s economic and community development benefits and potential to deliver important new public access and amenities.

In response to these concerns, the Foundation launched the central Delaware riverfront planning process to provide needed planning resources for the waterfront. We also sought a new model for large-scale, open, transparent civic visioning and planning that we hope will be replicable elsewhere in Philadelphia and will set a new standard for public access and participation in the city’s development decisions.

Although Philadelphia has come late to the waterfront development game, our tardiness gives us one important advantage – we can learn from the experiences of many other cities. And the lessons are very clear. Successful 21st century urban waterfronts are the result of a compelling vision, effective zoning and land use regulations, and strategic public investments.

While this document represents the culmination of a year-long period of intense civic engagement and thinking about the future of the Delaware Riverfront, this vision is only able to suggest possible options and future directions. To achieve a world class waterfront, there is much work ahead: the big ideas of this plan need to be fleshed out at the neighborhood scale; Philadelphia needs to develop and adopt effective land use and zoning controls; city, state, and federal infrastructure investments need to be coordinated; and ongoing engagement with community and civic groups, land owners, and other key stakeholders must continue.

Despite the long road ahead, the completion of this document represents a major milestone and singular achievement for the city of Philadelphia. Many people made this vision possible, including Mayor John F. Street and Councilman Frank DiCicco who initiated the effort; Janice Woodcock, Executive Director of the City Planning Commission and the Commission’s committed staff who provided critical support, insights, and ideas; and finally, the staff of PennPraxis, led by Harris Steinberg, provided exemplary leadership in managing an exhausting, yet highly meaningful public planning process. Special recognition is due to the 45 members of the Central Delaware Waterfront Advisory Group. These volunteers marshaled the public will necessary to drive the process forward amid significant challenges and tensions.

A local journalist and long-time observer of the city recently mentioned that Philadelphians were beginning to give up the old myths about the city – that Philadelphia is “second rate” or that “it can’t happen here” – but had not yet come up with the new story of the city. Our hope is that the ideas and images contained in this document will help to begin to fill in the new and emerging narrative of our beloved city. We are confident that a world-class, highly livable, vital, and diverse city is within our grasp…if we are willing to make the tough decisions necessary to achieve it.

Feather O. Houstoun
The William Penn Foundation


To the citizens of Philadelphia,

Over the past year, we had the privilege of working with thousands of Philadelphians who helped imagine a gleaming future for seven miles of the central Delaware riverfront. For that, we are extremely grateful. This report represents the fruits of those labors.

A Civic Vision for the Central Delaware rests upon the values, hopes and aspirations of the scores of Philadelphians from all walks of life who gave generously of their time, energy and passion to help craft a roadmap to the future. The civic vision is drawn from a sustained and, at times, provocative public conversation about how we can develop what is Philadelphia’s signal natural asset—the Delaware River. As such, this is both a hopeful and a challenging document.

It is hopeful because it paints a picture of a city by a river that grows gracefully towards the water’s edge. This is a vision of an inclusive Philadelphia—one in which commerce, culture and ecology peaceably coexist. It is challenging because it defies Philadelphia to aim high, change old habits and seize the opportunity to reestablish itself as a leading city of the world.

It dares us to believe in ourselves once again.

The work does not end with the publication of this document. Rather, the civic vision is a starting point for further dialogue and action, setting the table for the fruitful fulfillment of Philadelphia’s sparkling potential. It lays out choices we can make about investment in public spaces; it calls upon us to continue talking; and it provides a framework for growth that can help us find common ground.

Special thanks go to Mayor John F. Street for authorizing this work and to First District Councilman Frank DiCicco for championing the process. The Central Delaware Advisory Group provided exemplary collaborative oversight. We are extremely grateful to the William Penn Foundation and the Knight Foundation for their generous support of this work and for their sage guidance over the course of the project. I am particularly thankful to PennDesign dean Gary Hack for his constancy and counsel. And I am indebted to the indefatigable efforts of the PennPraxis staff, the Penn Project on Civic Engagement, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission and the planning firm of WRT for producing a work of such sterling quality.

But it is the people of Philadelphia who merit the most profound thanks. Your efforts and engagement have created a work of depth and integrity, one that is real Philadelphia.

Harris M. Steinberg, FAIA
School of Design
University of Pennsylvania
November 2007

The Central Delaware Advisory Group was composed of the following members over the year-long planning process created by Mayor John Street’s executive order:

Janice Woodcock, Philadelphia City Planning Commission, Chair; Laurie Actman, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; Theresa Alicia, State Representative Marie Lederer; Marsha Bacal, Society Hill Towers Management Office; Jeremy Beaudry, Fishtown Neighbors Association; Blaine Bonham, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society; Joseph Brooks, Penn’s Landing Corporation; Kirk Brown, Dickinson Narrows Civic Association; Hope Caldwell, Law Department, City of Philadelphia; John Childress, African-American Chamber of Commerce, Steering Committee; Darrell Clarke, Fifth Councilmanic District; Rina Cutler, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation; Romulo Diaz, City Solicitor, City of Philadelphia; Michael DiBerardinis, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Frank DiCicco, First Councilmanic District, Steering Committee; Anne Dicker, Neighbors Allied for the Best Riverfront; John Dougherty, Pennsport Civic Association; Fred Druding, Jr., Whitman Council, Steering Committee; Denise Earley, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; John Edelstein, Department of Commerce, Steering Committee; John Elfrey, Managing Director’s Office, City of Philadelphia; Carl Engelke, State Senator Vincent Fumo; Varsovia Fernandez, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Mark Focht, Fairmount Park Commission; David Fogel, South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority; Vincent Fumo, State Senator, First District; John Gargiulo, Port Richmond on Patrol and Civic Association; John Grady, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation; Robert D. Greenbaum, Society Hill Towers Management Office; Michael Groman, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society; Robert Gross, Delaware River Port Authority; Dave Hammond, South Street Headhouse District; Richard Horrow, Old City Civic Association; Mary Isaacson, State Representative Mike O’Brien; Loree Jones, Secretary of External Affairs/Managing Director City of Philadelphia; William Keller, State Representative, 184th District; Patty-Pat Kozlowski, Port Richmond on Patrol and Civic Association; Laura Lanza, Port Richmond on Patrol and Civic Association; Marie Lederer, State Representative, 175th District, ex offcio; Paul Levy, Center City District, Steering Committee; Henry Lewandowski, Whitman Council; Jennifer Lewis, Northern Liberties Neighbors Association, Steering Committee; Peter Longstreth, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation; Walt Lowthian, Queen Village Neighbors Association; Joseph Martz, Secretary of Administration, Governor Edward Rendell; Bernadette Mason, Pennsport Civic Association; John Matheussen, Delaware River Port Authority; Shawn McCaney, William Penn Foundation, Steering Committee; James McDermott, Jr., Philadelphia Regional Port Authority; Howard Moseley, Jr., Managing Director’s Office, City of Philadelphia; James Moss, Society Hill Civic Association; Stephanie Naidoff, Commerce Director, City of Philadelphia; Michael O’Brien, State Representative, 175th District; David O’Donnell, Queen Village Civic Association; James Paylor, Jr., International Longshoremen’s Association; James Penza, Whitman Council, Steering Committee; Cynthia Philo, Old City District; Shawn Rairigh, Neighbors Allied for the Best Riverfront; Pedro Ramos, Managing Director, City of Philadelphia; Edward G. Rendell, Governor, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Tania Rorke, Society Hill Civic Association; Andrew Ross, Law Department, City of Philadelphia; Matt Ruben, Northern Liberties Neighbors Association; Blake Rubin, State Senator Vincent Fumo; Jeff Rush, Old Swede’s Court Homeowners’ Association/Queen Village Neighbors Association; Andrew Sackstedder, River’s Edge Civic Association; Sandy Salzman, New Kensington Community Development Corporation; Anselm Sauter, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; Joseph Schiavo, Old City Civic Association; Mark S. Schweiker, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; Shanta Schacter, New Kensington Community Development Corporation; John Scorsone, River’s Edge Civic Association; Captain David Scott, Port of Philadelphia; Barry Seymour, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission; Herb Shallcross, Fishtown Neighbors Association; Nick Shenoy, Asian American Chamber of Commerce; Beverly Sherman, Society Hill Towers Management Office; John Taylor, State Representative, 177th District; Sarah Thorp, Fishtown Neighbors Association; Dick Tucker, Franklin Bridge North; Anna C. Verna, President, City Council; Carolyn Wallis, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Nicholas Walsh, Philadelphia Regional Port Authority; Steven Weixler, Society Hill Civic Association, Steering Committee; Lynne Wescott, Dickinson Narrows Civic Association; Delilah Winder, African-American Chamber of Commerce; Julie Wong, Asian American Chamber of Commerce

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