New Designs for Pier 53 to Be Rolled Out This Weekend

This weekend’s Ecofest will be one of those family-friendly events from the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) to celebrate the riverfront and its environment, with activities like a bird walk, hands-on nature activities and an urban ecology walk (don’t eat the mushrooms). But for those interested in design and in the city’s economic and urban development, there will be an added reason to attend: the rollout of new plans for the old, abandoned Pier 53.

Owned by the city, the once-active pier–a historical site that was the Ellis Island of our area–had been abandoned for decades. Because this is Philadelphia, and we don’t have measures in place to manage vacant structures or land, the pier simply deteriorated until it returned to a prehistoric state of nature. But if ever there were a group able to make silk from a sow’s ear, it’s the DRWC, and this is what it has done–and it’s wonderful to see a group recognize that the greenery that arises from a blighted site isn’t necessarily blighted itself.

In fact, in this case, along with the trees and plants that have flourished, “the rotted piers and eroded shoreline have become a nursery for migrating fish and a permanent home for several species of mussels.” Meanwhile, the little park at the foot of the pier, Washington Green, thrives as well, with runners, anglers and kids exploring the natural bounty.

What comes next is a mini San Franciscan move:

The scope of this project is to extend the small park at the foot of Pier 53 just south of Washington Avenue into the Delaware by building a self-supporting boardwalk structure over the pier that will allow visitors to get almost as far out in the river as they can at the Race Street Pier. Another goal of the project is to have it serve as a demonstration of best practices in ecological restoration and to establish Pier 53 as the northern anchor of a future wetlands project that will someday extend down to Pier 70 Boulevard. DRWC would be working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Philadelphia Water Department to bring this project to fruition.

DWRC awarded the design contract to Applied Ecological Services, whose Scott Quitel will present the new plans on Saturday (after he leads the urban ecology walk–he’s obviously a multifaceted guy).

WHEN:  Saturday, April 27, 2013, 8:30am – 12:30pm
WHERE: Washington Avenue Green, Columbus Boulevard & Washington Avenue (enter between Coast Guard Station and the Sheet Metal Workers’ building)
PARKING: Sheetmetal Workers Union Hall parking lot, 1301 S. Columbus Blvd.

Photo via Washington Ave. Green’s Facebook page