With a grand opening set for May 12—less than a month away—the construction of the Race Street Pier Promenade has really begun to take shape. You can now see a line of freshly laid trees on the upper-level sky promenade leading down the pier and to the lower-level social gathering space.
Wonderful design aside, however, I do worry a bit that this creative new space is too far out in no man’s land for it to actually get used, say, like Rittenhouse Square. For one, there are not many shops or restaurants in the area, a vital life line that helps breath energy into this type of space. (I mean, seriously though, without a Barnes and Noble where are we all going to pee?) Even the few tourist spots along Delaware River are spread out at least a couple of blocks in either direction, so I wouldn’t necessarily count on this becoming a tourist hot spot. While a “connector” from Second and Race Streets to the pier will be built to encourage pedestrian and bike traffic, I’m not sure the average Philadelphian is going to travel that far on their lunch breaks to really ever fill the park during the day, especially without parking.
All that said, this space is seriously going to have to keep giving Philadelphians reasons to return. Yes, I think the first few weeks will draw a fair amount of interested people, but a nice view isn’t enough reason for us to come back, especially since you’re making us work so hard to get there. Perhaps in the future creative special events, concerts and art exhibitions could be regularly scheduled to pull us back to the pier, but for now, I worry this wonderful space may go wildly underused by Philadelphia. —-Conrad Benner