We’re not sure how you like to have fun on rainy Thursday mornings, but for us there’s nothing quite like hanging out towards the back of the parking lot at Columbus Crossing in Pennsport. To get there, we first needed to traverse the massive parking lot that serves an even larger strip mall, which features an Old Navy and a Walmart, among other auto-centric delights. However, once we made our way across the sea of pavement, we found ourselves on a lovely, landscaped pathway right along the riverfront.
We understand if you’re surprised to see this completed pathway in such a spot, as it isn’t exactly on the beaten path. However, as we first mentioned back in 2013, this area received funding for a refresh, creating a new landscaped pathway along the water, while also completely reimagining Pier 68. These hardscaping and plant additions included stormwater measures as well, with a water management feature smack in the center of the pier, which we think looks great in addition to being a benefit to the pier and surrounding land. This was wrapped up back in 2015, and it’s still looking pretty darn nice today, even in less-than-ideal conditions.
So, why do we bring you to the back of a parking lot to visit a park that was completed eight years ago? Well, there are plans to expand this park, while also offering a new take on what’s possible along the riverfront. To both the north and south of Pier 68, there are large, empty piers that are reminders of the waterfront’s industrial past. Now, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, with an big assist from OLIN, is envisioning a return to even earlier days, with an “ecological restoration” for what is being called the South Wetlands Park. Before we get to the details, let’s first get a better idea of the scope of this project.
The plans here are quite exciting, with a multi-phased approach which will return the area to its natural state, while also adding more hardscaping and walking pathways for visitors. Indigenous vegetation species will be reintroduced to the water and a maze of pathways and seating areas will mix with more trees and landscaping to offer a verdant, welcoming park instead of some dreary, overgrown relics of the past. After ample public engagement to get an idea of how the site could be utilized, a conceptual plan was created to bring this dream into reality. The renderings below give an idea of what the future could hold for the potential park.
In addition to the renderings, there is also an interactive tool that you can use to walk through the planned experience – and learn a bit more about the history and ecology of the site.
We are in love with this plan, from the increased pedestrian access to the flood management and wetlands, this is an exciting and creative approach to what could have been a forgotten part of the waterfront. That said, these types of changes don’t come without a price tag, with Phase 1 on the south of the site coming in at $6.5 million and Phase 2 to the north anticipated at a tidy $20+ million cost. There are currently no timelines for construction, and this could be a difficult sell, especially given the lack of access to the site. On our way out, we thought we’d follow the bike path that leads north, only to be met with a disappointing realization.
After humming along and dejectedly turning around to make our way back through the parking lot, we remembered the former Foxwoods Casino site, which sits immediately to the north of the potential park. After we said goodbye to those plans, multiple rounds of proposals were pitched for a mixed-use project along the water. As the fence can attest to, those plans have yet to see any movement over the last few years.
Will we see this go up behind the Giant grocery store someday, connecting the planned park to the planned development? We sure hope so, as this would continue the waterfront development boom we’re seeing up and down the Delaware. Construction permits have been issued, so perhaps we’ll see these two projects happen in tandem, continuing the slow evolution of the waterfront. Until then, let us know if you need us to grab you anything from Michael’s.