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Photos: Venice Island Center to light up the Schuylkill River

The new Venice Island Performing Arts & Recreation Center opened Tuesday on a spit of land that has fallen into decay in recent years.

The new Venice Island Performing Arts & Recreation Center opened Tuesday on a spit of land that has fallen into decay in recent years.

"This is a crowning jewel," said Jane Lipton, executive director of the Manayunk Development Corporation. "We haven't seen a game changer like this in the 30-year reinvention of Manayunk."

The state-of-the-art environmentally friendly theater was built by the Philadelphia Water Department on top of a stormwater management tank. The Department of Parks and Recreation will maintain the center.

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"This project itself is unusual and unique," said Parks and Recreation deputy commissioner Leo Dignam. "We don't usually spend this much money on a combined project that is beneficial to both the departments and to the community of people living there."

The $46 million center includes a 250-seat theater, basketball courts, green roofs, rain gardens, and a spray park.

Venice Island was historically the site of a mill, and then restaurants which closed several years ago. It was the location of a Parks and Recreation pool but was generally considered undeveloped.

Now, Lipton said, in addition to the performing arts center, Venice Island will feature a 175-spot parking lot and has a cleared area where a new housing development is planned to go into construction soon.

"To someone who lives here, the changes and enhancements to that piece of the island are spectacular," Lipton said.

 
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