Race Street Pier, on Penn’s Landing, is open

It’s been talked about and photographed quite a bit lately, so here’s my article on the new Race Street Pier on Penn’s Landing.  Race Street Pier, formerly known as Pier 11, has just opened to rave reviews just south, and almost under, the Ben Franklin Bridge.  The new pier park is supposed to be the beginning of a series of about a dozen parks up and down the Central Delaware River waterfront that will be connected by a riverfront running and cycling trail.  The Race Street Pier is significant because of its location near Old City and its incredible views of the bridge and river, giving residents and tourists alike the chance to see an upclose view of the Ben Franklin Bridge that was previously only visible by boaters and longshoremen of the past.

Pier 11 was an old dock used for loading and unloading cargo ships in the past.  At one time, the Delaware River was lined with hundreds of these piers for that purpose.  But modern technology uses much more compact shipping terminals and cranes that have left most of the old piers abandoned by industry.  This particular pier had been abandoned and crumbling for decades before the Penn’s Landing Corporation, now the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, decided to renovate it for use as a new park a few years ago.

The new park is built on two levels, with simulated wood planks (made from recycled plastic containers) used on stairs that run along the grade between the two levels (the stairs are big enough for people to sit on so that the park can be used for outdoor concerts and other events).  Most of the park is covered with the simulated wood plank, but has trees (mostly swamp oaks), grass, plantings, and pavers on other sections.  There are wooden benches throughout and a wooden railing along the metal fence along the perimeter of the park.  The park offers views of the bridge, the river, Camden, South Philadelphia’s shipping terminals, the Walt Whitman Bridge, and the city skyline.

One aspect of the Race Street Pier development that may make it unique from most previous waterfront attractions is that the DRWC and the city have a plan to encourage people to walk under I-95 and across Delaware Avenue to go see it and spend time there.  The Race Street Connector project is being created along the underpass of I-95 and will consist of a mural along the underpass walls and creative lighting along the walls of and entryway to the underpass.  The Connector will, also, have live streaming video of the river running along the top of the entryways to the underpass.  The sidewalks along Race Street, at Delaware Avenue, are being replaced with new paving and lighting and an old Water Department pumping station, at the intersection, is being renovated for use as a year-round performing arts space and studio run by the Philly Fringe/Live Arts FestivalPier 9, next to the Race Street Pier, will also be renovated soon into a community or artistic space.

The creation of the Race Street Pier is part of the Civic Vision for the Central Delaware River Waterfront that was originally unveiled three years ago and is being used to complete a plan for the Central Delaware waterfront that was officially unveiled a couple of weeks ago (I’ll have more to say about that soon).  The new park and the Race Street Connector are part of the vision’s attempt to encourage people to walk down to the waterfront by improving the daunting underpasses of I-95 with artwork and lighting (a similar one is being planned for the underpass at Spring Garden Street, below the SEPTA station there).  This area would, also, become an artistic and scenic draw in many ways, and therefore, could help bridge Penn’s Landing with the slowly developing entertainment, boating, and residential area north of the bridge. 

If you would like to look for a new home or property in the neighborhoods along the Delaware waterfront, such as Society Hill, Old City, Northern Liberties, Fishtown, or Queen Village, you can contact me at gabriel@thecondoshops.com or check out and sign onto my Facebook realtor page, Gabriel G. Philly Realtor.  I know these neighborhoods very well and would love to help you find the place that’s right for you or your investment needs.  You may, also, find some listings that we have available in these neighborhoods on our Condo Shop website, here or our Condo Shop Facebook page, here.

I have a link to an article on the DRWC website here and my pictures below.

The Race Street Pier and the Ben Franklin Bridge as seen during the day

Sign outside of Race Street Pier park

Simulated wood planks lead into the park

Pathway facing towards the southeast and Camden waterfront

Pavers, grass, and trees

Various flowers

The dramatic upclose view of the Ben Franklin Bridge from inside the park

The PATCO trains, passing by on the bridge, give the park an urban feel

View of the span of the bridge, and the Camden waterfront, from the end of the park

Father and son fishing off the end of the Race Street Pier

The south view shows shipping terminals and the Walt Whitman Bridge

Pier 9 will be renovated soon into a community or artistic facility, still to be determined

View of the city skyline looking west, with the stairs on the right

This old pumping station will be renovated, and the sidewalk is being replaced, as part of the Race Street Connector

Renderings of the Race Street Connector under I-95

View of the bridge from the Race Street Pier at night

Race Street Pier, seen at night, with Ben Franklin Bridge in the background

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About gabrielcgottlieb

I am a real estate agent at Long & Foster Real Estate Center City and someone who likes to write about development and urban planning in the City of Philadelphia. Contact me at Gabriel.gottlieb@LNF.com if you are interested in buying or selling a home or investment property in Philadelphia.
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