Penn’s Landing Design Begins


To become part of a massive new waterfront park | Photo: Bradley Maule

Asphalt be buried: space that does not yet exist to be centerpiece of a massive new waterfront park | Photo: Bradley Maule

The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation this morning awarded a $425,000 design contract to Hargreaves Associates, the firm responsible for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London and the 21st Century Waterfront Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The six month planning and design process will be complete this fall, when initial design drawings will be released.

Chair of the Waterfront Corporation’s board, Marilyn Taylor, dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, noted that in Chattanooga, the project was began with public funding “going in to attract private money and that was music to our ears.”

What will be the beginning of the new waterfront: Welcome Park | Photo: Bradley Maule

Where Center City will transition to a new waterfront: Welcome Park | Photo: Bradley Maule

Hargreaves’ plan will focus on pulling the central waterfront up and into the city. Interstate 95 between Chestnut and Walnut Streets will be capped, creating massive new public space from Welcome Park over Columbus Boulevard and down to the Great Plaza of Penn’s Landing, which will be redesigned. The new public space will negotiate a 20 foot grade change from Second and Sansom Streets down to the river. “At Penn’s Landing,” says Penn’s Taylor, “there are always interesting challenges. For example, what do you with the scissor ramps [that presently take pedestrians and vehicles from street grade up ramps and to the top of the Great Plaza]?”

Memorials' park will be part of the new public space atop the highway | Photo: Bradley Maule

The Irish and Scottish memorials will be part of the new public park atop the highway | Photo: Bradley Maule

Hargreaves’ Chattanooga park was similarly focused on connecting a fragmented riverfront landscape back to the city grid. In Louisville, Kentucky, the firm has worked on a site, like Philadelphia’s wedged between the Ohio River and a wall of highways. There, they created a “great lawn” for passive recreation to the east of the city’s downtown.

In addition to the focus on the space between Chestnut and Walnut Streets, the Hargreaves plan will extend the South Street pedestrian bridge across Columbus Boulevard to the riverside in front of the Docksides apartment building.


  1. Please take a look at what Boston did with
    It is family friendly and wonderful for summer visitors to the city. My wife tells everyone about it and people have made trips to Boston just for that reason alone! With 4 young boys this area would encourage us to come to Penn’s Landing more often. My wife and I would be happy to volunteer my time in helping to get a “parents” view of the design phase.

  2. Harry Kyriakodis

    This is precisely where Philadelphia’s first wharf—Samuel Carpenter’s—was located long ago.
    Samuel Carpenter (1649–1714) was an English Quaker from Barbados, a friend of William Penn and a first purchaser. He had bought a small lot along the Delaware between Chestnut and Walnut Streets before coming to Penn’s settlement. After his arrival in 1683, he constructed Philadelphia’s first wharf there, along with a cottage overlooking the river.
    Carpenter’s Wharf was a notable landmark in the city’s earliest days. William Penn wrote in 1683, “There is a fair key [dock] of about 300 foot square built by Samuel Carpenter to which a ship of five hundred tuns [tons] may lay her broadside.” Gabriel Thomas states in his chronicle An Historical and Geographical Account of the Province and Country of Pennsylvania (1698), “There is also a very convenient Wharf called Carpenter’s Wharf which hath a fine necessary Crane belonging to it.” This cargo crane was widely praised in writings of the day.
    The wharf was expanded over the years with numerous storehouses and other commercial structures, some of which stood for over a century. For example, it was across from his original bank lot, where Carpenter later established Philadelphia’s first coffeehouse, Ye Coffee House. He also opened the Globe Inn on this lot.

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