Lydia O’Neill and Jeff Gammage have a mega report at The Inquirer this morning about the ongoing (and seemingly never-ending) dispute over the S.S. United States’ future. In a nutshell: the official conservancy that owns the boat says its best bet for survival is redevelopment in New York (after a lengthy and costly set of repairs here) and local developer Joe Henwood wants to turn it into a floating hotel near Harrah’s in Chester.
The Conservancy says Henwood’s idea is dead on arrival and Joe says he’ll just wait until the Conservancy runs out of money to buy the boat himself. Hill International’s Irvin Richter agrees that the Conservancy had its time to make progress on the ship (it’s been 18 years) but the Conservancy says without the work it’s done already, the ship would have been scuttled ages ago.
Complicating matters further are questions about what the Conservancy may have sold in order to sustain the ship's $80,000 a month upkeep and docking costs.
Conservancy officials deny that "precious metals" have been removed, but said nickel, brass, copper, and aluminum have been sold, with the money used to support the ship's maintenance.
Removing obsolete parts created space for future modern heating, cooling, and electrical systems, work that needs to be done at some point, but brought in money by being done now, the group said. None of the material is historically significant or vital to the ship's structural integrity, it said.
The detail sure to het up a rabble of local S.S. United States lovers: the Conservancy's argument that Philadelphia's "target population" is too small to support the $300 million project.
Dan McSweeney, a conservancy board member and managing director of the SS United States Redevelopment Project, said the size and density of the target population in the Philadelphia area were too small to support a project estimated to cost $300 million.
The conservancy wants to anchor the ship in a major city where it would become a tourist attraction, museum, educational facility, retail venue, and hotel.
"The population and number of visitors interested in visiting the ship would be much larger in New York," he said.
Henwood's consulting group has a familiar retort for anyone making similar claims about New York.
"It's not going to New York. It's not going to happen," said the head of Binnacle Group L.L.C. in Media. "New York is the most expensive, risky place in the world to do business."
Fight continues over S.S. United States [Inquirer]
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