Envision the Philadelphia’s eastern edge bordered by a natural boundary of parks and green spaces, wetlands and piers, trails and marinas, and you can begin to understand the overarching principles of the Plan for the Central Delaware to create a 30-acre green space along the Delaware waterfront.

To add to the recent flow of grant money it has received, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation recently received a $5M grant from the William Penn Foundation that will, in part, help to develop Pier 68, located next to the shopping center on Columbus Blvd. containing Walmart and Old Navy.

To be developed

“We want to sort of bookend that side of South Philadelphia,” said Lizzie Woods, DRWC project manager.

Based on what DRWC heard from the community during meetings the past two years, there is a demand to create a more physically active green space at Pier 68, now a concrete bastion, including a high demand for space to fish. In 2011, DRWC acquired Piers 64, 67, 68 and 70 with the help of a Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant, according to Woods. A study found that Pier 68 presented the most viable option for immediate development.

Pier 68 with its surroundings

Pier 68 will be the next chapter in the redevelopment on the waterfront. A couple of years ago, Washington Avenue Green opened at Columbus & Washington. Phase II of that project will develop Pier 53 into a natural wetland marked by a land buoy art installation. The William Penn Foundation grants also funded $1.5M of that project. DRWC launched an RFP process for Pier 68 this fall, said Woods, who stated that public meetings will begin this winter, and there could be shovels in the ground by early fall 2014.

So with the parts of the Delaware River Trail officially opened this summer, and early conceptual plans for major improvements at Penn’s Landing being unveiled earlier this month, and the Fringe Festival getting a new official space in a former pumping station built in 1907, at Race & Columbus, on the waterfront, it’s pretty much raining progress. At least conceptually, that is.

–Lou Mancinelli