The eastern side of the Schuylkill River waterfront in Center City is one of the best public spaces in town. On days warmer than today, the Schuylkill River Trail is abuzz with joggers, bikers, walkers, picnickers, and folks that are just looking to spend some time sitting in the grass, staring at the water. It’s a bit of a different story along the Delaware River.
Pedestrian access is limited by Delaware Ave. and I-95. There are a few small stretches of a Delaware River Trail, but it’s non-contiguous and has a much less bucolic vibe when compared to the trail to the west. Also, the Delaware waterfront still has a bunch of old piers that are either sitting vacant or used for commercial or industrial purposes. But it also has several positives. Race Street Pier is a gem of a public space. Spruce Street Harbor Park and Winterfest take over a swath of waterfront each year, offering food, drink, and fun along the river. And, uh, there’s an Ikea in one direction and a casino in the other direction. So yeah, the Delaware waterfront has a few things going for it, but nobody would disagree with the assertion that it’s got plenty of room for improvement.
Speaking of room for improvement, a new building and a new public space are planned for a currently crummy part of the Delaware waterfront. Pier 34, at 735 S. Columbus Blvd., was historically used for by the Reading Railroad, but is perhaps most famous as the site of the tragic Heat nightclub collapse, which resulted in three fatalities. Pier 35 is located immediately to the south, and is sitting mostly underwater at the moment.
A recent story on Philly.com shared the news that a Phoenix-based developer is working on a plan to build a 22-story, 308-unit apartment building on this site, which would include roughly 100 parking spots. Pier 35 would get a large commercial space and a new public space, modeled after Spruce Street Harbor Park. Digsau is the architect for the project, and the story included some renderings of what we can expect to see here. Check ’em out!
It’s not like this project would cap or bury I-95, or connect the separated pieces of the trail along the river. But it would be an incremental step in the right direction for the waterfront, as it would (we think appropriately) result in the dramatic improvement of two piers that have been sitting vacant for almost twenty years. Architecturally, this building looks really cool, and we hope that it will retain its unique design elements as it moves through the approvals process. To be honest, we’d be pleased if the project only included the residential component, but the fact that it would also create a new public space to draw people to the waterfront takes it over the top for us.