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2011 Master Plan for the Central Delaware Cut Philadelphia's Waterfront Short

Waterfront views and large parcels of vacant land should be a good urban revitalization in a growing city like Philadelphia, but the Central Delaware waterfront has fallen short of expectations.
March 26, 2019, 8am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Inga Saffron reviews the goals and results of a master plan approved in 2011 to remake the Central Delaware waterfront in Philadelphia.

The key approach of this plan, according to Saffron, was to aim for something different than the skyscraper-lined model of Vancouver and Miami.

By spacing out those smaller buildings, the thinking went, the city would create the beginnings of a true urban streetscape along Delaware Avenue. The mid-rises would populate the river, bringing just enough people to Delaware Avenue to support retail and justify adding a trolley line. The waterfront’s zoning was adjusted to make it easy to erect buildings under 25 stories, using a category called CMX-3.

While that seemed like a sound strategy at the time, Saffron makes the case that the results in 2019 have fallen far short of the ambitions described in 2011.

"Only one mid-rise has gone up over the last decade: PMC’s 16-story One Water Street, next to the Ben Franklin Bridge. Virtually every other residential project has been townhouses," reports Saffron. The maximum extent of the building envelope has not been realized, and the city is falling short of its vision for a "walkable, mixed-use riverfront neighborhood."

Saffron digs into more detail about why the townhomes that have been developed since 2011 fall short of the vision established by the Master Plan for the Central Delaware. There's even the development of a cap park to consider (work started in 2018), but even that hasn't convinced developers of adjacent projects to ditch to townhome development scheme.

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