The first phase of the new Delaware Avenue extension
officially opened in December, and it isn’t the only change coming to Bridesburg. The sole Philadelphia neighborhood that lies east of I-95, the community has long been divided from the Delaware River by the historic industrial center there. Now a proposed 10-acre riverfront park could change all that.
Over the last several months, the Delaware River City Corporation
(DRCC) and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation
have been engaging residents in a planning process (aided by dollars from the William Penn Foundation
). Those meetings culminated in the presentation of a final concept and master plan on December 16 at American Legion Post 821.
According to land owner Parks & Rec and DRCC, the proposed space for the park is a "blighted and unused tract of former industrial land" at the end of Orthodox Street.
Stephanie K. Craighead, director of planning, preservation and property management for Parks & Rec, argues that the site has been underutilized for years.
"There are some limitations to how close to the river you could get, because of how the site was used prior to our acquiring it," she says. In particular, a lot of concrete has been dumped at the river’s edge there, which rendered it unstable for major development.
Tom Branigan, executive director of DRCC, has become very familiar with Bridesburg residents and businesses over the last five years. Throughout many community and civic meetings, "they were always frustrated that things were happening all around them, but nothing was happening in Bridesburg," he recalls.
The momentum behind the park project really began when Taucony-headquartered Dietz & Watson
lost a New Jersey distribution center to fire a few years ago. The City of Philadelphia and the State of Pennsylvania worked to incentivize the company to locate its new distribution center near its headquarters across the Delaware in Philadelphia.
During that process, PIDC
purchased a piece of the former Frankford Arsenal
property adjacent to the Dietz & Watson headquarters. Known as the Frankford Arsenal Boat Launch, it had been scheduled for development as a shopping center, and was made available to the company to buy for its new distribution center. But that particular spot had been targeted by federal dollars for use as a recreational area, not a commercial one.
PIDC had an answer: Let Dietz & Watson develop the former Frankford Arsenal land, and transform a comparable piece of nearby riverfront into a recreation space. PIDC owned the land at the end of Bridesburg’s Orthodox Street, and transferred it to the City of Philadelphia for development as a new recreation site.
And so the groundwork for Bridesburg’s new park was ready. Next, we’ll take a look at what DRCC and Parks & Rec are planning for the space.
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Stephanie K. Craighead, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation; and Tom Branigan, Delaware River City Corporation