Saffron Underwhelmed By Waterfront Plans: “The Free Pretzels Were the Same”

penn's landing park

Rendering by Hargreaves Assoc.

Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron attended the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation’s Penn’s Landing presentation last week, during which new concepts were presented to the public. Or, well, newish concepts. Or, well, maybe not so new after all. Saffron:

…you could be forgiven for wondering what was new. All the rituals – peppy speeches, colorful renderings, free pretzels – were the same. So was the plan…much of it a rehash of the ground plowed two years ago in the master plan, a joint effort by Cooper Robertson, Kieran Timberlake, and Olin.

Sure, Hargreaves’ proposals contain a few fresh nuggets, like suggestions for a modern Tuileries Garden on the I-95 cap and a squiggly, Gehry-esque pedestrian bridge at South Street. But given that the basic outlines for those particular projects were already laid out in the master plan, Hargreaves’ contribution amounts to little more than fancy icing on an existing cake.

Saffron was also frustrated by the fact that Hargreaves didn’t explicate some of the more challenging engineering questions of the current plan. “Not one of those questions was answered last week,” Saffron wrote.

While it might seem, as philebrity says, that Saffron took “a big poop” on the project, the truth is she’s got some good points about the presentation. It’s true that the emphasis was almost entirely on the recreational benefits that are the least of the complexities: a pretty bridge, art stalls, an amphitheater, food trucks, and the like. Complex questions about dredging and flooding were skimmed over. Too much was deferred until January. There was too much emphasis on the difficulties of finding funding.

Saffron is not just being cranky; she’s an engaged citizen who is passionate about the fate of the city’s waterfront. We’ve been waiting a long time for something to happen, and the plan is solid. Perhaps this presentation wasn’t entirely necessary at this point, given the lack of clarity on a number of issues. On the other hand, as Saffron notes, when it comes to actually making waterfront development happen, “time is running out.”

Read more at: Changing Skyline: Little enlightenment on waterfront plan