Thursday, October 26, 2006

Penn Praxis jumps head first into the steaming pile that is the Delaware River Waterfront Plan

It has been barely three weeks since Mayor Street’s executive order authorized Penn Praxis to develop a new master plan for the Delaware River Waterfront. So it’s definitely refreshing to see that Penn Praxis is undettered by failed previous plans for the river and has hit the ground running.

In the Daily News yesterday, Harris Steinberg, Penn Praxis Executive Director, laid out the preliminary context of their mission and how exactly they plan to create a "civic vision for the Central Delaware that balances the public good, access to the waterfront, open space and quality urban development."
Waterfronts are the hot ticket in progressive cities these days. Everywhere you go in planning and economic development circles, the air is filled with talk about waterfronts. Why? Because in today's knowledge economy, yesterday's industrial sites are rapidly becoming today's centers of civic pride.

People want to be able to live, work and play in an area without traveling great distances at great expense. Waterfronts are recreation centers, places of natural beauty that offer an escape from the hubbub of city life. We can look no farther than the glories of the upper Schuylkill to know that this is true.

And yet we're allowing the Delaware to become clogged with graceless, towering condominiums perched on distended parking podiums and gated communities that cut off public access to the water's edge. We've allowed soulless, Anywhere, USA, big-box stores and strip malls to bring unprecedented traffic congestion.

And just around the bend, looms one, possibly two, giant slot-machine barns that could blow all of this out of the water.
Ok now. Good to see these guys won’t be pulling any punches. As Inga Saffron points out, the fact that Penn Praxis is not a city agency is actually a good thing, considering the circumstances.
Penn Praxis' advantage is credibility; it doesn't answer to any political bosses. Unlike a development corporation, which is designed to drum up new development, Penn Praxis will have the luxury of focusing first on quality-of-life issues, things like parks, sidewalks and fishing piers.
And as we’ve come to expect from Mr. Steinberg, his piece is poignant and right on. And amazingly — despite all of the incredible opportunities missed — it makes us feel like there’s still hope for a reclaimed Delaware waterfront.
It's time to hold a civic conversation and create a vision for the central Delaware, a civic vision for the people's waterfront that gathers the hopes and dreams and aspirations of Philadelphians who live both near the river and from across the city. A civic vision that establishes a road map for development that puts Philadelphians first and foremost as it creates an elegant, exciting, vibrant and humane 21st century urban design that makes the world take notice.

That's what we're embarking on - and we need your help.
[…]
This is our moment, Philadelphia.

Let's get to the water's edge.
Word. Seriously. We're there.

Related:
If the waterfront were a cat, this would definitely be life #9 [Daily News]
Penn Praxis is in a race against time [Inky]
Three waterfront walks and talks with design and planning experts [Plan Philly]
It only took New York three decades [Inky]

1 comment:

rjwhite said...

Also, Mr. Steinberg will be speaking at the next CPDC forum on Nov. 14, on the future of the waterfront.
http://www.centercityphila.org/aboutus/cpdc_anniversary.aspx