Philadelphia, PA / Construction Starting 2022 / 4 acres / ~$125 million
Decades ago, I-95 divided Philadelphia’s downtown neighborhoods from each other and the Delaware River. The area has development challenges (i.e., highway ramps, slopes, abandoned industrial sites), but it also has tremendous potential and appeal. Even as is, with broken-down walkways and parking lot taking up much of the space, people still come to enjoy views of the river and take part in pop-up activities like a summer carnival and roller rink.
The area that became Penn’s Landing (named after William Penn, the English writer and Quaker who founded Pennsylvania) sits between downtown Philadelphia and the Delaware River waterfront. There have been numerous iterations of various master plans to develop the area since the 17th century, some of which have been developed in fits and starts.
In 2012, the city adopted a master plan to redevelop the waterfront, and the nonprofit Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) stepped up to help oversee the effort. A key component of the bigger vision includes an expansion of the existing lid park, which currently covers a small portion of the freeway. In 2014, the DRWC published a feasibility study that deemed the project viable and strengthened the partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).
The study showed that the proposed lid project could support landscaping, including large trees, as well as buildings that could generate economic investment. To maintain momentum, the DRWC then led a capital funding process that resulted in significant public-private contributions to improve the entire 12-acre park, including the four-acre lid. PennDOT followed up with a more detailed planning and design of the project, resulting in a lid that would double the length of the current lid to 600 feet and better connect the city to a two-mile section of the Delaware River Trail, energizing the surrounding residential and retail area. The plan includes PennDOT owning and managing the structural lid, and DRWC managing the lid park’s maintenance and operations.
Before COVID, efforts to engage the community had been increasing, along with public excitement and input for the programming opportunities made possible by a re-imagined public park. Originally, construction had been scheduled to kick off in 2021 with the removal of the existing lid, but the pandemic and related complexities have delayed the timeline. State officials currently estimate that construction will begin in 2023, and the park will open in 2026.