If you’re reading this page, it’s extremely likely you’re familiar with the long-discussed plans for a park at the site of Penn’s Landing’s Great Plaza. After years and years of master plans, proposals, and community feedback, plans for the 11.5-acre park were approved about a year ago by the Art Commission. Since then, there has been little action to be seen on site, and then a groundbreaking ceremony was delayed due to the collapse/quick reconstruction of I-95 in the northern reaches of the city. But folks, we are thrilled to say that this is no longer a dream, as we attended a groundbreaking for the now $329 million park. This was a major event, with Mayor Kenney and Governor Shapiro joining the festivities, celebrating the years of effort to turn this dream into a reality.

Governor Shapiro saying hello before the ceremony
A jovial Mayor Kenney discusses the progress
The line of luminaries and their shovels

As we’ve covered the details many times before, we won’t dive too deep into the plans, but just to briefly remind you, we are expecting a play space, gardens, a central atrium, a reconfigured skating rink, and much more. This will be quite a change from the current state of affairs.

Looking north from Chestnut St. at the site of the future park
An aerial rendering shows off the full plans
A look at the site plans, including the Market St. lot to the north
A closer look at the layout of the sloping area as it connects to the water
A rendering of the gorgeous atrium in the center of the park
Play areas will provide all-ages activities
Gardens and lawns will provide areas for people to relax
A look at the skating rink area in the winter

Pretty exciting, right? It will require extensive engineering work to brings these plans to life, with the Walnut St. bridge soon being closed off to pedestrians so that steel beams can be set in place over the highway and Columbus Blvd. The area under the park will also see upgraded lighting and hardscaping, while the Delaware River Trail will continue next to the roadway.

An elevation drawing shows the work to come
A cut-away view shows how a forest will be planted over a highway
Looking south along the trail underneath the park

To the south, a new bridge will create a pedestrian/bicycle connection from South Street to the trail. Not only will this bridge provide an easier connection to the river, but the design will create something of a new gateway to this central part of the Delaware River waterfront.

The South Street Bridge will connect the South Street corridor directly to the water
A look at the snazzy design for the bridge

But that’s not all! Well, at least that’s not all that is planned. Just to the north of the park, the Durst Organization has massive plans for a multi-tower complex that would include apartments, hotel rooms, a food hall, restaurants, office space, and more. While we haven’t heard anything about this recently, the plans were hinted at during the speeches, so we are hopeful that things are indeed moving forward despite the delays with Durst’s other project in the general area.

Looking north at the Market St. lot, where a huge mixed-use project could rise
A rendering of what we could see here in the future
Could we see these towers rise adjacent to the park?

Even if the towers don’t rise in tandem with the park, we are extremely hopeful that we’ll see substantial progress here soon. There was a repeated theme of “Pennsylvania can do big things,” so we are hopeful that those big things include getting this park in order before the World Cup/Semiquincentennial in 2026. After all, if we can repair a major highway in two weeks, what’s a few years to build a park?