River Stage at the Waterfront

Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC)

Funding Received: 2013
Philadelphia, PA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
June 3, 2014

By Michael Greenle

The city of Philadelphia is one month away from reconnecting with its waterfront in a way it never has before. With the opening of a new pop-up public space at the Penn’s Landing marina, The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) will bring thousands of Philadelphians and visitors to a well-known but underutilized space. This is an opportunity to show what the future of this site could be and inspire Philadelphians and city leaders to help make this vision a reality. DRWC’s challenge is to convert the excitement and interest we hope to see in a great summer event into a movement to make permanent improvements to Penn’s Landing that will create Philadelphia’s next great waterfront public space for generations to come.

DRWC has a long-term master plan for the Central Delaware Waterfront, and plans for the future of Penn’s Landing have just been completed. Now, through our ArtPlace grant, we’re excited to create a demonstration project for all Philadelphians to see what a vibrant place the waterfront can be. DRWC is preparing to launch Spruce Street Harbor Park (located at the Penn’s Landing Marina), a two-month summer pop-up park throughout July and August that will bring a boardwalk, urban beach, fountains, public art and misting areas to the Delaware River Waterfront. The centerpiece of the project is a series of floating barges complete with lily pad water gardens, a pop-up restaurant and bar, and nets that will suspend visitors over the water. The full design of the project, including the landscaping and programming, evokes the rich maritime history of the area, and will celebrate the River’s industrial past and the bright future ahead that we expect for Philadelphia’s waterfront. We’re planning our annual Promenade event to be held at the Harbor Park as a preview on June 25 and our opening weekend of the park to be June 27 – 29th.



Key elements of the Harbor Park enabled by ArtPlace include:

The Oasis: Made of three floating barges, this urban harbor oasis contains a lily pad garden, colorful seating, and a pop-up restaurant and bar. Perhaps the centerpiece of the project is a series of nets extending from the barges that will allow visitors to hang over and almost touch the water underneath them.

The Hammock Lounge: Oversized hammocks strung throughout the trees on the west side of the park in the area formerly designated for the International Sculpture Garden.

Columbus Seating Area: Moveable colorful seating and tables positioned around the Columbus Monument. In the evening, the area will be lit by fire pits for a beautiful ambiance on a cool summer night.

Harbor Boardwalk: An oceanfront boardwalk transported to the Delaware River, complete with dune grasses and repurposed cargo containers selling summertime concessions and arcades.

The Urban Beach: Located along the quay, and next to the tall ship Gazela, this area will consist of lounge chairs, beach umbrellas, and surface material reminiscent of being at a pebble beach.

Mist Walk: Being at the waterfront would not be complete without a way to cool off. An artistically designed mist walk, colorfully lit at night, allows visitors to stroll through a light spray of water to combat the summer heat.

Many of the components of the summer pop-up were also used for Waterfront Winterfest, a holiday-themed place-making effort surrounding DRWC’s Blue Cross RiverRink, which celebrated its 20th and most successful year in its history in 2014, despite suffering several weather-related closures. The concepts for Winterfest and Spruce Street Harbor Park were designed by a team which included design firms Digsau, Interface Studio and Groundswell Design Group. The design teams were featured in a Philadelphia Inquirer article.

Our intention in bringing residents and visitors to Penn’s Landing this summer for a two-month day/night event is to invite Philadelphians to think beyond the already successful summer event series the Great Plaza is known for and to imagine a vibrant space in all hours of the day. We hope to show what a great asset public space is along the waterfront at Penn’s Landing, especially at the marina, where the city already meets the river at grade – and without the separation that interstate 95 creates in other places.

The premise behind DRWC’s strategy for Penn’s Landing (and indeed all of the Central Delaware) is for the public sector to lead with high-quality public spaces, which we believe will attract high-quality private development. The master plan identified Penn’s Landing as a key location for a central public space and intensive development. To study this further, tell us what was feasible and how much the initial public investment would need to be, DRWC hired a team led by Hargreaves Associates. After a yearlong process, DRWC is now releasing the results of the study to the public and developing a financing plan. The study is described in video:

DRWC is looking forward to a great summer at Spruce Street Harbor Park and building momentum for permanent improvements to Penn’s Landing. ArtPlace’s support for taking this first step has been essential to helping us show what is possible now, and to build the public support and political will for what we hope to see in the future.