Columbia Avenue Connector is Coming Soon Tuesday, April 30
The wolf, the turkey, the turtle and William Penn are all part of an infrastructure improvement project down by the waterfront in Fishtown. In addition to creating a streetscape that includes tree plantings, rain gardens and other sustainable elements, the Columbia Avenue Connector will feature public art that pays tribute to the treaty signed between the Lenni Lenape Indians and William Penn in Penn Treaty Park.
The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) is creating a Columbia Avenue Connector that will improve access between the neighborhood and waterfront at Delaware Avenue, according to Karen Thompson, a DRWC spokesperson. The section of the Columbia Avenue west of the I-95 underpass, between the overpass and Girard Avenue will be improved by a streetscape designed by Studio Bryan Hanes.
Hanes also designed the Sister Cities Park along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and contributed to the Penn Treaty Park Master Plan. The improvement work will be conducted underneath the I-95 overpass as part of PennDot’s I-95 Revive project, which started its second phase, GIR-2, this fall. The work is funded by PennDot.
The DRWC board voted April 26 to approve the public art designs submitted by Donald Lipski for a vision Lipski claims will blend the Old and New Worlds. It awarded a $290K contract to Lipski for the creation and installation of his design, which features elements like lampposts supported by the shells of fabricated turtles. Five bronze turtles will line Columbia Avenue. Lipski won a juried selection process that awarded him the contract to develop the design.
The Wolf, Turkey and Turtle were all local Lenni Lenape clans. Chief Tamanend, who signed Penn’s Treaty with William Penn in 1673, was a member of the Turtle Clan. The art element of the project will begin when phase three, GIR-3, of the I-95 projects launches, which is expected to be in early 2014, according to Thompson. In addition to the Columbia Avenue Connector, improvements will also be made to ease the connection to the river at Shackamaxon and Marlborough Streets as well, according to Thompson. Those projects, however, will not include the sustainable elements planned for Columbia Avenue.
We dig this project. It might seem absurd to think lampposts embedded in bronze turtle shells might look aesthetically pleasing. But that's what we're getting, and we'll just have to see how they come together. Thus viewers may see the fixtures in a new way, perhaps as a marriage of the Old and New Worlds, at least an artistic one. And moreover, we never knew the name of the local clans around here, and we'd guess that many others share our lack of awareness about the history of local Indian tribes. This project will also include placards explaining the art, so it will serve an educational purpose as well. Here’s to hoping DRWC continues with its work of redeveloping the waterfront and improving its connections to surrounding neighborhoods.