Could There Be Real Progress For Penn’s Landing in the Coming Years?

If you’ve spent a summer in Philadelphia, it’s likely you’ve ended up at Penn’s Landing at some point, perhaps perusing a flea market, catching a concert, or simply visiting with the purpose of lamenting its inaccessibility, its unfortunate design, and its spectacularly wasted potential. Yes, Penn’s Landing coulda been something special, but it’s instead an unfeeling amphitheater, cut off from most of downtown and lacking the kind of warmth we crave in our outdoor spaces.

Photo credit: Michael Cook

The Master Plan for the Central Delaware seeks to change all of that. Perusing this extremely thick report, you’ll find a section that details plans for Penn’s Landing and its surrounding area. Those plans include a large park extending over I95 and Delaware Ave. replacing the current Penn’s Landing setup, additional pedestrian foot bridges, and several mixed-use development projects springing up along the waterfront. Clearly, if these plans all come to fruition, the waterfront will experience a tremendous resurgence.

The photos below show conceptual renderings from the Master Plan, and give a sense of some of the ideas that have been bandied about regarding this crucial part of the city.

Current view from across the river
The same view shows the large park replacing Penn's Landing as well as new buildings to the north and south
Current view from the west, aerial view
A potential look to the future. That park looks a little more inviting than the concrete of the present.
A look at additional mixed-use development next to the large basin
Another general rendering of the proposed project in the master plan, just from another angle

With cost and bureaucracy standing in the way, it seems exceedingly unlikely that all of the proposals detailed in the master plan will come to pass. But according to Planphilly, there is good news to be reported. The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation has put out an RFQ to find a firm to “conduct preliminary design and engineering for an in-depth analysis of the redevelopment of Penn’s Landing, as envisioned by The Master Plan.” Phase I will focus on engineering aspects, and Phase II will relate to design of the new Penn’s Landing. Both should (hopefully) be completed in about a year, at which point it will be time to collaborate with the many stakeholders and attempt to raise the millions upon millions of dollars that will be required to make the project a reality.

We look forward to a Delaware waterfront that’s integrated with downtown Philadelphia, is useful and engaged with our city’s residents, and isn’t embarrassing to show to tourists. Thankfully, it appears that we’re finally taking the first steps in what will surely be a lengthy process to finally reach a point where Penn’s Landing is a point of pride in Philadelphia, just like its namesake would have wanted.