Bringing Center City to the Waterfront

March 24th, 2017 Shannon O'Donnell Comments Off on Bringing Center City to the Waterfront

It’s something that people have talked about for a long time, but Center City might finally see green space connecting the downtown center with the banks of the Delaware River. Right now I-95 stands between Center City and the river like a sprawling, ugly wall. Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposal would build a raised green park over the highway to provide a gorgeous gateway to the water, where city residents can connect with nature.

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An artist’s rendering shows the elevated park that would cover an expanse of I-95 and connect Center City with the river.

The park would cover the span of 95 between Chestnut and Walnut, encompassing eleven acres. It would also cross Front Street and Columbus Boulevard. It wouldn’t be a cheap project: experts are placing the price tag at an eye-popping $225 million. Of that, $100 million would come from state coffers. Additionally, the William Penn Foundation has pledged several million dollars. It’s an expense that would be worthwhile, says Mayor Kenney.

“We’re getting a large opening space, we’re covering a highway that while functional is an eyesore,” Kenney said earlier this week. “We’re going to be able to access the river directly, and I think that’s going to be great for the businesses in Old City and Society Hill and the historic area, and it’s going to allow families in North and South and West Philadelphia to lay on the lawn and see the river and enjoy the sights.”

Even if it were approved tomorrow, it’s unlikely that ground would be broken on the cap-park until 2020. From there it would take an estimated three years to complete the park. All in all, it would be six or seven years before families actually got to run their toes through those grassy acres.

Former Mayor Michael Nutter set the plans for a cap-park in place, discussing the issue with the City Council and going so far as to seek funding. It takes a while for these types of things to get set up, however, and that’s why the city is only just now getting around to taking the matter seriously.

Even if it’s a long time coming, it sure is a nice thought to imagine Center City stretching all the way to the Delaware, isn’t it?

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