One of Philadelphia’s greatest assets is it’s Delaware River waterfront. It is a real shame that the city does not seem to know how to use it. The Penn’s Landing amphitheater and festival area were steps in the right direction but they come across as rather half-hearted, neglected, and now out-dated. During Mayor Street’s administration there were plans for a retail mall, an outlet-type mall no less, which fell through — luckily. The festival area was even closed for several years and the cultural celebrations which took place there each summer were re-located to a pier further north then to a huge, ugly parking lot at Broad and Washington.
That nightmare seems to be over and Penn’s Landing is now being used again by Philadelphians for summer fun. Even the fountains have been filled with water – such extravagance! But, seriously, Philadelphia should be ashamed that it has squandered this potentially awesome space.
Now it seems something sensible has happened which could lead to environmentally responsible and asthetically appealing development. Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Jeff Shields reports that the Philadelphia City Council passed a bill to require 100-foot setback from the river for green space. Developers, of course, are ticked off and claim it will hinder development. Well, what has passed for development/plans for development over the last 20 years has sucked. Now, any future plans must respect the uniqueness of the waterfront and its value in the civic life of the city. This is one little ground rule, but an essential beginning, in responsible, world-class civic space development for the city of Philadelphia.