If you’ve found yourself at the intersection of Delaware Avenue & Spring Garden Street over the last decade or so, Festival Pier was likely the reason why. The long-time home to the Roots Picnic served as a waterfront concert venue for years before closing for good back in 2019. But if you went back a bit further to the late 1980s, you would have found yourself looking up at a state-of-the-art garbage incinerator. While we’ve felt like hot trash here before, that is a level a bit beyond our liking. On the other hand, Garbage Incinerator was our band’s name in high school, and we were as terrible as the name suggests. Ah, memories.

Back in the 1960s, Philadelphia had a trash issue, and the solution was simple: burn it! An ultra-modern facility saw up to 200 trucks per day dump their contents into the fire. Thankfully, everyone realized this was a terrible idea, the building was demolished, and concert-goers had an outdoor venue for a while. For the last several years, we’ve had a vacant lot.

Festival Pier in the past, looking south towards the Benjamin Franklin Bridge
MediaStream 1966 3_ccexpress
The giant incinerator on the pier shortly after completion in 1966, with the loading ramp in the foreground
MediaStream 1966 4_ccexpress
Looking east towards New Jersey from southern end of the site back in 1966
And the same view today
Open gates at Spring Garden Street show massive size of site

You may have heard that plans have been in the works for years to redevelop the site. We are pleased to report that the Bernardon-designed project is moving forward, as we saw major action on a visit to the site recently. Two mid-rise buildings containing approximately 550 apartments will rise on the northern end of the site, with a public park holding down the southern end. Ample retail will make up the base of both buildings and the entire site will be bordered by a walking path connected to the on-going Delaware River Trail construction. A recent post by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation confirms that things are indeed set to begin. But enough talk, let’s check out the current progress.

Trees being cleared to prep the site behind Festival Pier arch
Excavators, materials and plenty of workers are spread across the site
View looking south down Delaware Avenue

So, what lies ahead for the site? From our perspective, a pretty awesome upgrade to this stretch of decrepit fencing. Let’s check the snazzy renderings to see what’s in store for this important riverfront project.

View looking east at Spring Garden Street entrance today
...And the same view in the near future
Aerial of the site, looking southwest towards Center City
Street presence on Spring Garden will be just sliiightly improved
View from Delaware Avenue, looking at an extended Spring Garden Street
View from pedestrian plaza between buildings, looking west
From the same spot, this time looking east towards the river
View from one of the many resident amenities, with a pretty sweet view
View of park on southern portion of site - we're already lining up for the food truck

Like we said: just a bit of an upgrade. As we’ve recently reported, this is just one of several projects getting kick-started this spring on the city’s eastern edge. Just across the street, two other large proposals are waiting in the wings. The proposed DeSimone car dealership/residential tower is just across the way where Delaware Ave. hits Fairmount. Immediately to the north, a large proposal for the former Phlirt dance club/bus parking lot is waiting for next steps. This parcel recently changed hands and closed in November for over $17M, so we hope to see things move forward soon.

Current view of DeSimone tower site showing no recent signs of progress
Auto showroom/residential tower, designed by CosciaMoos
Former dance club on the north side of Fairmount could potentially be hundreds of apartments
Rendering from JKRP shows the huge mixed-use proposal, with the historical townhouses to remain

All told, we could see a thousand units rise just along these couple of blocks. The riverfront is seemingly transformed more and more each passing day, and we can’t wait to finally see the potential of the area become reality.