As we briefly mentioned the other day, the folks from Philly Fringe and Live Arts Festival were recently awarded a $400K grant from ArtPlace America. This grant will contribute to the development of an outdoor plaza adjacent to the former pumping station now being renovated to serve as the Fringe Festival’s home at Race Street and Columbus Boulevard in the shadow of the Ben Franklin Bridge.

Current view

Future view

“We’re really just wanna get out of the way of the setting,” said Nick Stuccio, executive director of the festival about the concept of the plaza designed by Wallace Roberts & Todd.

That natural setting includes views of the Delaware River and the Ben Franklin Bridge. The surface material of the plaza might include five different kinds of crushed brick reclaimed from the site, including red brick from the interior and a beige yellowish brick from inside.

Plaza will sit to the north of the building

The vision is for the plaza to be a natural flowing continuation of the interior. It’s half beer garden and half restaurant. The restaurant and bar are being constructed in the ground-floor of the pumping station now. People will pass through 25-foot high arched doors when crossing from the plaza into the restaurant. The plaza itself had to be designed in two tiers because of the grade. The results are a 50 foot by 40 foot lower plaza that flows into or out from the restaurant and a 75 foot by 40 foot upper plaza. Half of the grant will be put towards fabrication and half will go towards programming at the pumping station. Stuccio said the plaza could be ready for use this fall.

The plaza, looking toward the water

The grant was part of a larger $1.2M awarded to the City of Philadelphia for four separate projects, including Destination Frankford and a $335K grant to the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation for the development of a river stage and programming at Penn’s Landing Marina Basin. Waterfront development has seen several advancing efforts this spring as meetings are now underway for a Spring Garden Connector project to improve access to the river, Washington Avenue Green Phase II, and the Columbia Street Connector. There are also plans to improve Penn Treaty Park this year as well as plans for an expansion at Sugarhouse that includes redevelopment of a waterfront trail. As more action continues along the waterfront, we envision that other the elements put forth in the Central Plan for the Delaware (just adopted by City Council!) will start to materialize. Until then, we’ll be plan on a few beers this fall, hopefully, down along the river in an old pumping station while enjoying some strange but ultimately worthwhile theater piece.

–Lou Mancinelli