Our Ambitious Plans for a New West Philly Waterfront Public Space

A rendering of the proposed public plaza and pool
Apr 18, 2024 39 days ago

At our State of University City event on Thursday April 18th, 2024, we announced details about a grand and ambitious vision for a new public space that aims to transform the river close to 30th Street Station.

The West Philly Waterfront will be a two-deck structure rising on the western bank of the Schuylkill River, accessible from Schuylkill Avenue between the Market Street and Chestnut Street bridges. Overlooking the river and into Center City Philadelphia, the Waterfront will sit above the Schuylkill River and from Chestnut to Market along Schuylkill Avenue.

“The time is right for a bold vision to further enhance our connection to the Schuylkill River,” says UCD President Matt Bergheiser. “UCD made a down payment on public space in the area with The Porch at 30th Street in 2011, and our partners who have developed Schuylkill Yards and Schuylkill Banks have added their own special and highly impactful public spaces. Now is the time to think with great aspiration about a new iconic space to connect the waterfront to the dynamic growth of University City, and to make it accessible for all Philadelphians.”

 

The upper deck will feature a welcoming, lushly planted promenade, street access to food trucks and rideshares, and sweeping views over the river and into Center City. Visitors can take stairs, an accessible ramp, or slide down to the lower deck, where an entertainment hub will feature a fully public pool, a natural beach, and a covered entertainment venue. This waterfront public space will serve as a gateway to West Philadelphia, University City, and the entire city, offering a unique blend of leisure and community-building, and is being designed to sustain future environmental challenges.

 

The West Philadelphia Waterfront will serve as the gateway to the region’s cradle of economic growth-the universities, health systems, and burgeoning life sciences companies of University City. Amenity-rich cities draw talent and investment and signal to the world that they are ready to compete for jobs and wealth-building in a global economy. The West Philadelphia Waterfront will add another iconic gem to Philadelphia’s civic landscape. In addition to being a place for recreation, the West Philadelphia Waterfront will play a pivotal role in promoting equity and resiliency in public space. It will become a place where young and old Philadelphians can connect with water activities, including swim classes, lifeguard trainings, and public swim competitions.

Moreover, UCD is committed to showcasing shade as equity, providing a fully public shaded area for respite during the hottest months. Importantly, we have designed this project to withstand a 500-year storm event, demonstrating our dedication to building a robust and sustainable future for our city.

With lessons learned from the construction of The Porch at 30th Street Station and the 40th Street Trolley Portal Gardens, University City District will lead the reimagination of the West Philadelphia Waterfront as more than just a public space; it will symbolize progress, inclusivity, and preparedness. This project aligns with the shared vision for a dynamic and resilient Philadelphia and will it be an economic boon for the city, providing $60 million in union infrastructure and construction contracts. The project will require a series of engineering and design approvals in the months ahead, and fundraising efforts are underway. Once fundraising is complete, UCD anticipates a roughly 3-year process to conduct community engagement, make tweaks to the design, secure the needed permits and approvals, and complete construction.

As the 30th Street District undergoes an ongoing revitalization, which includes a $550 million renovation of William H. Gray III 30th Street Station and a new Market Street Plaza where The Porch now stands, University City District, in partnership with AEC OM, DIGSAU, The Collaborative and Bio Habitats Inc., are excited about this vision for Philadelphia’s next great public space. The West Philly Waterfront will offer a statement for what Philadelphia, and what it can be for 2026 and beyond.

See early reactions to the Waterfront in this video from Fox 29:

 

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