Making Port Richmond's waterfront the place to be once again

A Port Rich­mond res­id­ent Janusz Kow­al­ski, right, ob­tains in­form­a­tion of the I-95 pro­ject from Doug Rob­bins of URS Cor­por­a­tion at a pub­lic meet­ing event held at Camp­bell Square Park in Port Rich­mond sec­tion of Phil­adelphia Wed­nes­day May 25

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In Port Rich­mond, a com­fort­ably warm and sunny spring even­ing last week was peppered with in­form­a­tion on the fu­ture of the Delaware River wa­ter­front.

The event in­ten­ded to al­low loc­als from all walks of life to learn about plans for the long des­ol­ate swath of river­front.

Un­like most meet­ings on wa­ter­front plan­ning and zon­ing, or­gan­izers basked in the sun­shine and neigh­bor­hood chil­dren zipped through Camp­bell Square for “It Ain’t Your Grand Pop’s River­front Any­more,” a col­lab­or­at­ive meet­ing presen­ted by the New Kens­ing­ton Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Corp. and Port Rich­mond on Patrol and Civic As­so­ci­ation.

“You know why it’s called Port Rich­mond?” Patty-Pat Kozlowski, dir­ect­or of PRO­PAC, asked the crowd of about 100 res­id­ents.

“Be­cause we have a port,” she said.

Re­mind­ing res­id­ents of years past, Kozlowski said that there was a time when loc­als didn’t just ac­cess the river reg­u­larly — a dif­fi­cult pro­spect now with I-95 cut­ting through the com­munity and vari­ous prop­erty own­ers clos­ing off their river­front sites — but the river was the place to be for loc­als.

“Every­one went down to the river,” she said. “This was our Jer­sey shore.”

It’s a time that rep­res­ent­at­ives from a num­ber of or­gan­iz­a­tions, in­clud­ing the Delaware River City Cor­por­a­tion and the Delaware River Wa­ter­front Cor­por­a­tion, seem eager to bring back, and they presen­ted sep­ar­ate plans for the fu­ture of the wa­ter­front last Wed­nes­day.

Tom Branigan, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the DRCC, presen­ted a pro­pos­al for a river­front trail that would al­low res­id­ents to walk along the Delaware River from about Al­legheny Av­en­ue to Grant Av­en­ue.

It would be a 12-foot wide trail, about 1.5 miles long, to al­low walk­ing and bik­ing along the river north of Al­legheny Av­en­ue.

It could be com­pleted with­in the next four or five years, he said.

“There’s go­ing to be some won­der­ful changes on the river,” said Branigan.

Also, the DRCC plan would add areas for movie present­a­tions on the river­front and, though noth­ing is fi­nal, pos­sibly an am­phi­theat­er for con­certs. 

“There’s really not a leg­al spot, and the key word is leg­al, to get to the river, be­sides Pu­laski Park,” noted Kozlowski, ap­plaud­ing the DRCC plan.

Ad­ded ac­cess to the river, from Al­legheny Av­en­ue south to Ore­gon Av­en­ue, was a fo­cus of the soon to be un­veiled Mas­ter Plan for the Delaware River­front, de­veloped by the DRWC.

For the past 17 months, the DRWC, us­ing a two-year, $5 mil­lion grant from the Wil­li­am Penn Found­a­tion, has cre­ated a plan that could help bring small parks to nearly every “con­nect­or street” along this sev­en mile stretch of the river­front.

Ac­cord­ing to Sarah Thorp, mas­ter plan­ning man­ager for the DRWC, the idea is to turn the spots where streets like Cum­ber­land, Berks and Al­legheny streets meet the river in­to small parks, sim­il­ar to what has been done to Cen­ter City’s Race Street Pier.

While designs shown last week were merely a draft — the fi­nal plan will be un­veiled on Monday, June 13, in a meet­ing on Fest­iv­al Pier, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. — Thorp showed how some of the parks could in­clude amen­it­ies like a sandy beach area with vol­ley­ball courts or an area des­ig­nated for kayak­ing.

“It’s really an ex­cit­ing plan,” said Thorp. “We are still go­ing to have tons of com­munity in­put.”

Thorp said vari­ous con­cerns over prop­erty own­er­ship hinders some of the ele­ments of the plan, but with­in the next dec­ade, she be­lieves, the mas­ter plan could see the river­front trans­formed in­to a des­tin­a­tion with myri­ad areas for res­id­ents to ac­cess the wa­ters of the Delaware River.

To dis­cuss a pro­ject cur­rently un­der­way, Mari­an Hull, plan­ning group lead­er for URS Cor­por­a­tion, a group con­trac­ted by PennDOT for the I-95 Re­vive pro­ject, dis­cussed where the pro­ject stands and what lies in store for the sur­round­ing area.

Con­struc­tion on the pro­ject is go­ing smoothly, she said, and soon it will be time for res­id­ents to dis­cuss sound walls, an im­port­ant ele­ment of the pro­ject and one that the com­munity will have a sig­ni­fic­ant im­pact on.

“The fi­nal de­cision is up to the people who live along these cor­ridors, if they want them or not,” she said.

Hull also said res­id­ents will be able to have in­put on loc­a­tion, ma­ter­i­al and façade used for any and all sound walls that could come to the com­munity.

There will be up­com­ing meet­ings in June to dis­cuss the sound walls, she said.

As chil­dren played in the park and their par­ents, many hold­ing pant­ing dogs on leashes, listened to plans for the river­front, Kozlowski said she wanted to host a more laid back meet­ing, be­cause as a re­port­er her­self, she was of­ten bored at stuffy pub­lic in­form­a­tion­al meet­ings.

“If I was bored, oth­er people in the meet­ings were bored,” she said. “We wanted to have a nice com­munity meet­ing. The only time every­body comes to­geth­er is when something bad hap­pens.”

As her one-and-a-half year old daugh­ter, Ivy Clark, chomped on cold pizza crust, Mag­gie Kais­er said she was glad for the open-air com­munity meet­ing, be­cause as a life-long com­munity res­id­ent, she learned a lot about the river­front.

“I al­ways thought I was break­ing the law by go­ing over to the river,” she said. “It’s like, I’m sorry, but I want to go there. Even if they don’t do all this, at least let us go down there.”

At the end of the meet­ing, Kozlowski re­minded res­id­ents that it’s im­port­ant to at­tend com­munity meet­ings — even the bor­ing ones — be­cause res­id­ents need to have a voice in the plan­ning for the fu­ture of their neigh­bor­hood.

“At the end of the night, we are the ones who sleep here,” she said. “That’s our river­front.”

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­ 

Have your say

The Delaware River Wa­ter­front Cor­por­a­tion will un­veil its Mas­ter Plan for the Cent­ral Delaware river­front on Monday, June 13, at the Pa­vil­ion at Fest­iv­al Pier, Delaware Av­en­ue and Spring Garden Street, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

To RS­VP for the event, email rs­vp@delaware­river­wa­ter­front­ The meet­ing will be open to the pub­lic and there will be a peri­od for pub­lic in­put.

Also, PennDOT will be hold­ing two meet­ings to dis­cuss plans for sound walls along I-95. Res­id­ents will have in­put.

The meet­ings will be held on the Wed­nes­day, June 8 and Wed­nes­day, June 15. Both meet­ings will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 at Holy Name of Je­sus Church at 701 E. Gaul St.

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