Rendering of what the waterfront Pier Park on Washington Avenue is slated to look like. Credit: Delaware River Waterfront Corporation
A $2 million waterfront project off Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia will break ground this Thursday and when finished, will feature a boardwalk, walking path and historical signage telling the immigration station background of the pier.
The new pier park, commissioned from the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, is a “wonderful project” according to DRWC president Tom Corcoran. It combines different disciplines, he said.
Public access to the river will be created in two ways. People can enjoy panoramic views of the Delaware River from the south side of the boardwalk. Also, a pathway will extend to the tip of the pier where people can touch the water, see the tidal pool and more.
“They can really see what’s happening in the river,” Corcoran said.
Another aspect of the new pier is ecologically — the deteriorating pier will be upgraded to preserve wetlands and the fish and bird population there.
“So it has a very important educational aspect to it,” Corcoran said.
The pier in the late 1800s to early 1900s served as an immigration station, mostly for people travelling from Europe to Philadelphia. Historical markers and signage will adorn the pier and park.
“This is our Ellis Island,” Corcoran said.
Artist Jody Pinto designed a 55-foot sculpture acting like a beacon to the area.
“I think it’s going to become a neighborhood amentity,” Corcoran said, “but I think it will become a regional destination where people want to come and see something very different but beautiful. I think the immigration station is going to bring a lot of people as well.”
The project — funded by the William Penn Foundation, capital grants from the city and from the Department of Conversation and Natural Resources — will break ground Thursday and should be finished the middle of next year.
It’s all part of DRWC’s master plan, approved last year, to develop a park every half mile along the waterfront from Allegheny Avenue to South Philadelphia.
“This will play a major role in providing recreational opportunities for people,” Corcoran said.