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Delaware River Waterfront Corporation Releases The Master Plan for the Central Delaware

October 28, 2011

Having completed the Master Plan for the Central Delaware, today, the board of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) unanimously endorsed the framework and recommendations it contains and transmitted the plan to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission for further action. To view the final plan, please visit CLICK HERE

DRWC embarked on the master planning process in 2009 in order to provide a framework of land use, open space, economic, transportation, and development recommendations for the Central Delaware waterfront, utilizing DRWC resources and a $1 million grant from the William Penn Foundation.

The Master Plan for the Central Delaware presents detailed proposals for strategic investment and phasing for future waterfront development over the next 30 years.  The economic assumptions in the plan are grounded in reality, proposing a conservative investment strategy which makes this plan implementable.  The plan is focused on implementing new parks, trails and road projects to catalyze development across the waterfront.  Projects will begin first at three priority sites:  Spring Garden Street, Penn's Landing and Washington Avenue.

DRWC and the master planning team followed an open and transparent planning process by holding three well-attended public forums and numerous stakeholder and focus group meetings, and by utilizing a project website and other media to solicit input on the plan. The final draft of the plan was presented in a public meeting on June 13, 2011 to a crowd of over 500 community representatives and stakeholders.  DRWC received public comments on the draft plan in the summer of 2011 for a period in excess of 30 days and made revisions to the plan based on these comments.  In September, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation received the Commonwealth-Gold award for Plans and Planning for the Master Plan for the Central Delaware from 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania.

“I am delighted that the DRWC board endorsed the Master Plan for the Central Delaware, a comprehensive roadmap for the city and developers as we go forward with waterfront development,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “The Master Plan has been an example of excellence in community input, transparency and engagement. With the successes of the Race Street Pier and other developments underway or already completed on the waterfront, we can already begin to witness the benefits of this plan, which will create a more vibrant and integrated waterfront in the years to come.”

Jeremy Nowak, president & CEO, William Penn Foundation, said, “The 2007 Civic Visioning Process for the Central Delaware was one of the most meaningful and inclusive public conversations held in the modern life of this city. It embedded the hopes and dreams of our citizens in a master plan, and those concepts will now officially govern the evolution of our waterfront over the next three decades.  It is a remarkable achievement for our community and marks a huge leap forward for the City.”

To view the final plan, please visit
The plan includes:

  • A network of civic and public spaces developed as distinctive public amenities supported by a public financing strategy focused on initial public investments in basic infrastructure (streets, utilities and public parks and trails) to serve as catalysts for high-quality private development on priority sites in supporting Philadelphia's transformation to a twenty-first century lifestyle city.
  • An increased program of free and sponsored events that bring people to the waterfront, enhancing the current program and expanding to additional locations on the waterfront.
  • Accommodations for diverse land uses along the waterfront, including the working port, hotels, commercial, retail and flex office/light industrial. The plan envisions the development of primarily dense low to mid rise residential neighborhoods with service retail, cafes, bars and restaurants, entertainment venues, and other uses that support year-round activities.
  • New development which maintains a character consistent with current Philadelphia building vocabulary and quality of adjacent neighborhoods and also matches near-term market conditions.
  • A detailed strategy for wealth building to create opportunity for MBE, WBE, DSBE and individual investors.
  • A multimodal transportation and transit plan that includes facilities for streetcar/transit, vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians that shapes and serves walkable communities and links waterfront destinations to each other, connects waterfront residents to employment centers, provides at-grade service to Center City, and is an integral element of the regional transportation network.
  • A phasing strategy which concentrates initial public funding and therefore development on nodes of public land near transit and other assets in order to generate a critical mass of activity in key locations as well as to pace development so that it corresponds with projected absorption rates.

Three specific nodes, called "Priority Sites" have been selected:

  • Washington Avenue
  • Penn's Landing
  • Spring Garden/Festival Pier                        

The development of the plan was led by planning consultant Cooper Robertson & Partners.  In addition to the lead consultants other members of the consultant team included:

  • HR&A Advisors, Economics
  • Kieran Timberlake, Architecture and Sustainability
  • OLIN, Landscape Architecture
  • Parsons Brinckerhoff, Transportation
  • Hurley Franks & Associates, Public Outreach
  • Urban Affairs Coalition, Wealth Building
  • Toni Griffin, Public Policy Advisor
  • Emily Cooperman PhD, Historic Resources
  • Katherine Woodhouse-Beyer PhD, Archaeological Resources
  • Karin Bacon Events, Activation Programming
  • KS Engineers, Civil Engineering
  • CH Planning, Land Use Planning
  • BlankRome, Land Use Counsel
  • Kelly/Maiello, Supporting Architecture
  • Davis Langdon, Cost Estimating
  • Brooklyn Digital Foundry, Renderings

Marilyn Jordan Taylor, DRWC Board Member/Planning Committee Chair and Dean of University of Pennsylvania School of Design, in describing the foundational principles that underpin the plan, said, "With its formula of parks every half mile, meaningful connections to neighborhoods, and cutting-edge urban design, this plan responds to the goals of our city and makes them realizable along the Delaware. It will be a waterfront with a myriad of opportunities for developers and entrepreneurs of all scales, which will meet our obligation to make the Central Delaware a city and regional asset."

Alan Greenberger, DRWC Board Member and Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, said, "The timing of this plan gives us an opportunity to coordinate with the recently unveiled Philadelphia2035, the city's comprehensive plan, and the modernization of the zoning code currently being evaluated by City Council. We are setting the table to make a series of strategic public infrastructure improvements that will encourage high quality development on the adjacent sites as the real-estate development market recovers; aligning the actions and interests of the public sector with those of private landowners and developers."

 “Over the next several years, DRWC will implement a series of short term initiatives identified in the plan which include plans for new connector street projects, new parks, water taxis, traffic improvements, pre-development work for the Festival Pier Site at the foot of Spring Garden Street and the design and construction of various segments of the permanent multiuse waterfront trail,” said Tom Corcoran.  "Much of the funding for these early action projects has already been secured. Not only will these projects stimulate economic development within priority sites but will also serve to create momentum to propel this waterfront forward.”

Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) is a nonprofit corporation organized exclusively for the benefit of the City of Philadelphia and its citizens. DRWC acts as the steward of the Delaware River waterfront to provide a benefit to all of the citizens and visitors of the City.