Report: Board Could Choose Festival Pier Developer on Friday (Updated)

The 11.5-acre site sits at the foot of Spring Garden Street, and could become a mix of residential, retail and public amenity space.

Master Plan for the Central Delaware. Photo via the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation.

Concept Taken from Master Plan for the Central Delaware | Photo via the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation.

Spring Garden Street leading up to the Delaware River has become a hotbed of development activity this year, and there’s probably no bigger project on deck than the reimagining of the Festival Pier site on Columbus Boulevard.

According to Jacob Adelman of The Inquirer, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) will vote on the winner of the three-horse race to redevelop the 11.5-acre site at a board meeting on Friday.

Little is known about the specific plans thus far, but the DRWC is looking to create a mixed-use residential development with retail options and plenty of public space to provide greater access to the Delaware River and its ever-growing waterfront trail. Given that the site is steps from the Spring Garden Street station on SEPTA’s Market/Frankford Line (and close to multiple bus stops), this is a tremendous opportunity for a transit-oriented development project that also extends Spring Garden through the site to the water.

Adelman says the partnership of Jefferson Apartment Group out of McLean, Virginia and Haverford Properties Inc. out of nearby Haverford is “apparently close” to being the pick over both Toll Brothers and New York’s RAL Companies.

Emma Fried-Cassorla, communications manager at the DRWC, reached out to Property via email to say that the DRWC has not chosen a developer yet and the board will be deliberating about the designation of one at the meeting: “There aren’t going to be any formal developer presentations … The board will vote tomorrow, but nothing is decided until those votes have been cast.”

A call to Jefferson Apartment Group was not immediately returned, but Adelman reports that they have sought out assistance from none other than Cecil Baker, who has recently designed 500 Walnut, One Riverside and the redo at the Boyd Theatre site at 1910 Chestnut. It’s probably safe to assume that this project could be quite spectacular with Baker on board, given his recent thoughts on the impact of quality design as it relates to marquee locations. Aside from Penn’s Landing, it doesn’t get much bigger than the Festival Pier site on the Delaware River waterfront.

The area around Spring Garden Street is teeming with development activity. At 5th Street, a horizontal office campus has been announced at the former Destination Maternity site, and there is also another creative office proposal out there for the old Finnigan’s Wake building, which sits on 3rd Street. Additionally, there’s a large vacant parcel on the market on Front Street that’s just begging for some (or any) new life.

On the Boulevard/Delaware Avenue itself, the Ajax Metal industrial site has been rejuvenated into a massive entertainment complex on Frankford Avenue called the Fillmore. The former location of Cavanaugh’s River Deck at Pier 25 is on the market, and Pier 35 & 1/2, which is just north of Festival Pier, was recently purchased for redevelopment.

So needless to say, whatever happens at the Festival Pier site will surely be the cornerstone of a rapidly-developing area of the city.

Correction: A previous version of this post stated that the DRWC had selected Jefferson Apartment Group and Haverford Properties Inc. as the developers of the Festival Pier site. It has been amended to reflect that no developer has been chosen, and that a decision could come when the board meets on Friday. We regret the error.