Waterfront Wishes: Bridesburg Neighbors Voice Desires For New Riverfront Park

The proposed project is still in its infancy, but – should it unfold
without a hitch –  the site could see changes as early as 2017.

Long-earmarked in city-wide and waterfront master plan studies as potentially viable for parkland or anything other than its industrial past, the 9.4-acre riverfront parcel at 3101 Orthodox Street in Bridesburg is now gradually materializing.

Image via DRCC-Phila.org

The site of the proposed riverfront park in Bridesburg | Image via DRCC-Phila.org

Sitting adjacent to the former coal-operating Philadelphia Coke Company facility, the property is now at the center of discussion at community engagement meetings headed by the Delaware River City Corporation (DRCC) and the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

In case you missed it, Parks & Rec. acquired the site, which had once been part of a Dietz & Watson foundry, last year. As PlanPhilly reported then, the land went to the department upon the city reaching a land swap deal with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), which owned the parcel at the time.

Now, equipped with William Penn Foundation grant funding for the community engagement process, DRCC and Parks & Rec. are in the midst of the “concept development” stage of the proposed venture. Neighbors, of course, are a crucial element to the unfolding plan: “We had a series of community meetings working with a consultant to develop what [residents] perceive the space should be used for and function as. This is all about getting the baseline concept in place to support the community,” Stephanie Craighead, Director of Planning, Preservation and Property Management at Parks and Recreation, told Property.

And what do Bridesburg residents want? Well, over the course of the neighborhoods meetings that have taken place, Craighead says a special interest has been expressed in open green spaces, meadows with walking trails, look-outs with views toward the Delaware River, and a gathering space for events. “I think they’re looking for passive space to counter with the [active] facilities that they have at Bridesburg Recreation Center,” she said.

When the concept development stage is complete (the last community meeting will be held December 16th), the group will then start to pursue funding for more formal design documents that will be required to build the park.

Work, however, cannot be expected to begin too soon. As Craighead noted, the group must then contend with having to find money for the park’s construction when the time comes and, later, actually building the park. “Knowing that we still have quite a bit of money to raise, we’d probably be looking at 2017,” she said. Speaking of which, funding would be anticipated to come in from a mix of sources, namely nonprofits and the city: “We have a history of being able to marry city money with state grants or other grants to build facilities,” Craighead said.

Although finalized designs are anticipated to be unveiled later this year, early concept plans of the proposed Bridesburg waterfront park (done by Locus Partners) can be seen on DRCC’s website.

Area projects already in the pipeline are the three-mile long Baxter Trail, which is set to be part of the Delaware River Trail and the East Coast Greenway and which broke ground in 2013, and the K&T Trail, “a two-mile trail section being developed on an abandoned riverfront Conrail freight rail line.” The latter is scheduled to break ground next year.