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Delaware River Waterfront Corp. preps pedestrian-friendly improvements

With two new projects -- one in Fishtown and one in South Philly -- the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) is taking big (and small) steps towards making the waterfront more functional, accessible and pedestrian-friendly.
In Fishtown, DRWC's board recently approved a $290,000 contract with artist Donald Lipski to install a piece honoring the legendary treaty between William Penn and the Lenni Lenape Native American Tribe at Penn Treaty Park. Sculptures of five bronze turtles, a lit-up fiberglass turkey and a wolf will be installed along Columbia Avenue east of I-95. Evoking the symbols of the three Lenni Lenape clans, the project has also received a $60,000 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Art Works grant.

When complete, the public art installation will join a streetscaping design by landscape architect Bryan Haynes in a coordinated effort to connect the waterfront to Fishtown via Columbia Avenue. The streetscaping plan includes new street trees, rain gardens for stormwater management and underpass lighting, among other elements.

Further south, DRWC is turning Pier 53 at Washington Avenue into the next Race Street Pier, with an ecologically-minded twist. The land at the foot of the historic pier is already a park -- the recently completed Washington Avenue Green. The Pier's new design (just unveiled by DRWC and lead designer Applied Ecological Services) is Washington Avenue Green's Phase II.

"The design was influenced by four goals," says DRWC's Lizzie Woods, restoring the health of the river through ecological uplift, historical sensitivity, providing public access and providing a place where people can touch the water."

Pier 53 served as an immigration station for Philadelphia between 1873 and 1915. In addition to elements reflecting this unique history, other aspects of the $1.5 million project include native gardens, floating wetlands, rain gardens, gathering areas and rubble meadows.

According to Woods, three elements of the park's design are currently unfunded: the boardwalk, a "welcome spire" at the Washington Avenue Green entrance and a "Land Buoy" sculpture at the water's end of the pier. DRWC is currently conducting a cost analysis for these improvements and hopes to identify funding soon.

The goal is to start construction on Pier 53 within six months. Currently, DRWC is seeking a slew of permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move forward. The open space should be ready for public enjoyment in early summer 2014. 

Source:  Karen Thompson and Lizzie Woods, Delaware River Waterfront Corporation
WriterGreg Meckstroth
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