New Plan for the SS United States: Have it Sail Again

Restored SS United States - rendering

Rendering of the restored SS United States from Crystal Cruises

The SS United States may sail again after all.

At a press conference today in Manhattan, SS United States Conservancy director Susan Gibbs and Crystal Cruise president Edie Rodriguez announced a proposed $700-plus million restoration and modernization of the SS United States, after which the 990-foot long ship will return to active cruise service. The news was first reported by The New York Times this morning.

There were not concrete details today. Rodriguez said all the decisions on the ship’s future would be ironed out in the feasibility study. There is no decision on where the ship will be docked, though Gibbs said she’d like it to be New York. Either way, the ship is likely headed out of Philadelphia.

“I’d like to thank the City of Philadelphia for so warmly hosting the SS United States,” Gibbs said. “Together, we beat the odds. And together, we refused to give up.” Read more »

A Brief History of the SS United States’ 20 Years in Philadelphia

SS United States - Skyline

A view of the Philadelphia skyline from the SS United States in South Philadelphia. (Photo: Dan McQuade)

The SS United States has been “saved” before.

In 2010, Gerry Lenfest donated $5.8 million to the Washington-based SS United States Conservancy in an effort to preserve the ship. “At first I said it’s impossible to do it because it costs too much money and then I thought, ‘Well it’s worth a try because it’s a great ship,’” Lenfest told the Inquirer at the time. “It was a great achievement for the United States to build this vessel, she’s worth saving.”

Search Philadelphia magazine’s SS United States tag and you’ll find lots of stories from the past few years about the ship’s fate. Two years ago, the SS United States Conservancy began a plan to clear out the inside of the ship in order to sell materials and prepare the ship for sale. “It’s a great fixer-upper,” Conservancy executive director Susan Gibbs said.

In July 2014, the ship looked like it was headed to Brooklyn. The New York Times reported the ship could be moving to Brooklyn “within four to six months.” Then in December the Conservancy entered into a preliminary agreement to renovate the ship.

Last October, the SS United States announced it was exploring the sale of the ship for scrap. “We will have no choice but to negotiate the sale of the ship to a responsible recycler,” the Conservancy said in a statement. (Susan Gibbs, the Conservancy’s director, is the granddaughter of ship architect William Francis Gibbs.) Then, last week, the Conservancy announced it would on Thursday make another announcement, this time in Manhattan, about the future of the SS United States.

Though several proposals, including a casino, had been floated for the future of the ship in Philadelphia, a 2011 report from the Conservancy “concluded that it’s not likely to work [in Philadelphia] for a variety of reasons.” So the 20-year stop of the SS United States in South Philadelphia is likely to end. But how did it get here? Read more »

SS United States Saved? “Major Redevelopment Deal” to Be Announced in February

USS United States | Photo by Arthur Etchells

USS United States | Photo by Arthur Etchells

It looks as though the long-held calls of S.O.S for the SS United States have finally paid off, as the SS United States Conservancy has signed an option agreement with an unknown development partner for the redevelopment of the iconic ship, according to a media advisory issued by the Conservancy.

Plans will be made known at a press conference in New York City at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal’s Pier 88 on February 4th. “An exciting future for the ship will be revealed that envisions the SS United States again as an iconic symbol of America the world over,” reads the release. “An artist rendering of the redeveloped ocean liner will also be unveiled.”

The announcement means that it looks as though “America’s Flagship” will not float its way to the scrap heap, which, due to the burdensome cost to maintain the ship, was becoming an all-too-real possibility for the imposing vessel docked near the IKEA in South Philadelphia.

Recently, there have been glimmers of hope that one-time luxury liner could be saved, with the Conservancy even stating it “had never been closer to saving the SS United States, nor close to losing her.”

Read more »

The Deadline to Save the SS United States Has Passed

USS United States | Photo by Arthur Etchells

USS United States | Photo by Arthur Etchells

It looks as though the future of the SS United States is in a little bit of a holding pattern, as the SS United States Conservancy’s self-imposed deadline of October 31 has officially come and gone. So what’s next for America’s Flagship?

“The Conservancy’s Board will convene this week to assess our current situation from a financial, redevelopment and broker standpoint,” the Conservancy announced in a press release. “At that time, we will be able to provide a more concrete update about the immediate future of the ship.”

Read more »

Could the SS United States Become a Multi-Use Complex in Brooklyn?

ss united states

Photo: Laura Kicey

It looks as though the SS United States may have found a savior to ferry it to safety, and it could very well be trading its view of the IKEA in South Philly for a similar site in Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn Paper’s Lauren Gill is reporting that John Quadrozzi Jr., a concrete magnate from Red Hook, would let the famed and decaying ocean liner dock at his Gowanus Bay Terminal completely rent-free.

Quadrozzi’s plan isn’t merely about safely mothballing the legendary boat, not by a long shot. Here’s more from Gill:

His pitch is to gussy up the gutted vessel’s 12 decks — which span 13 football fields worth of space — and fill them with offices for start-ups, a gym and swimming pool, eateries, a theater, a maritime school, and a maritime museum. The ship would be self-sustaining, he claims, converting waste to energy and harnessing solar and wind power.

Fittingly, the terminal is adjacent to the site that houses IKEA’s Brooklyn location, so it all could come full circle for the SS United States in the end, as it’s long been a fan favorite for those enjoying a bite to eat at the South Philly IKEA’s cafeteria in Pennsport.

Read more »

Hey Philadelphia, the SS United States Is a Rusting Money Pit

SS United States. Photo | Jeff Fusco

SS United States. Photo | Jeff Fusco

One of the longest bon voyages in modern Philadelphia history surrounds the SS United States, the derelict eyesore complementing the concrete prairie near Ikea along Columbus Boulevard in South Philly. Repeatedly, the SS United States Conservancy has sounded the alarm, saying that this historic relic would be scrapped unless Philadelphia came together and sunk millions into the rusting money pit.

According to the organization, it costs $60,000 a month to keep the ship afloat as a background prop for people eating at Chick-fil-A. And now the conservancy is pleading with Philadelphia to again save the oxidized fossil.

“If progress toward a new sales option or an infusion of funds does not occur by October 31, 2015,” says the organization, “we will have no choice but to negotiate the sale of the ship to a responsible U.S.-based recycler.” In other words, the ship is heading toward scrapyard oblivion like it’s stolen copper wire out of an abandoned house.

Oh, I can already hear the polite society gasps at that one. I mean, who hasn’t stripped copper wire? (Answer: Probably people willing to sink millions upon millions into a hole for no apparent reason.) Read more »

SS United States Conservancy Exploring Sale of Ship for Scrap

SS United States

The SS United States, docked in South Philadelphia in September 2015. (Photo | Dan McQuade)

“The Conservancy has never been closer to saving the SS United States, nor so close to losing her.”

That is the message from the SS United States Conservancy today, as it announced it has partnered with a broker to explore the sale of the ship to a “responsible, U.S.-based metals recycler.”

Sound familiar? It should. In 2010, the ship was about to be sold for scrap when Gerry Lenfest donated millions to help the Conservancy buy the ship from Norwegian Cruise Line. In November 2013, the Conservancy warned that if plans did not come together quickly, the ship could be sold for scrap.

Last summer, the Conservancy again warned of the scrap heap as others floated plans to save the ship and move it to Brooklyn (or Chester). The Conservancy made a final push to save the ship, which was extended when it entered into a preliminary agreement for redevelopment in December.

Today, announced with a New York Times story, comes this “Last S.O.S.” (per a cheeky NYT headline). The Conservancy is exploring a sale for scrap, with a strong deadline of October 31st. “We will have no choice but to negotiate the sale of the ship to a responsible recycler,” the Conservancy said in a statement. Susan Gibbs, the Conservancy’s director, is the granddaughter of ship architect William Francis Gibbs. Read more »

The SS United States Is Safe — For Now

SS United States. Photo | Jeff Fusco

SS United States. Photo | Jeff Fusco

The SS United States — the luxury liner long docked across from the IKEA in South Philadelphia — has, finally, some good news. According to a release from the SS United States Conservancy, the group has entered into a preliminary agreement for redeveloping the ship. The conservancy did not name the partner, or what its role is, but has received additional funding for three months.

The United States was built in 1952 as a luxury liner intended to break the trans-Atlantic speed record, and it still holds the eastbound and westbound records. Unfortunately for the ship’s builders, transatlantic air service for passengers began in 1958, and the United States made its last run in 1969.

This ship has been docked in South Philly since 1996 — it actually predates the IKEA — and its supporters have waved a long battle to save the ship from the scrap heap. It costs $60,000 a month to keep the ship docked in Philadelphia, and money has been running out for a while. But this week, progress:

Read more »

SS United States Could Move to Brooklyn in Months

SS United States. Photo | Jeff Fusco

SS United States. Photo | Jeff Fusco

Lost your artsy friends to Brooklyn sometime recently? It could get worse: The SS United States may move to Brooklyn in a matter of months!

A bit of backstory: The United States was built in 1952 as a luxury ocean-liner that would break the transatlantic speed record. It was successful. The ship still holds Blue Riband for westbound transatlantic trips (as well as the eastbound record). Unfortunately for the United States, transatlantic air service for passengers began in 1958; the ship made its last run across the Atlantic in 1969.

Since 1996, it’s been sitting at a South Philly dock — near the South Philly IKEA, as many writers have noted — while everyone figures out what to do with this historic ship. The SS United States Conservancy — who has noted for years that the ship’s time is limited without a restoration — is attempting to save the ship from the scrap heap.

And now it might move to Brooklyn.

Read more »

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