Boathouse Row would expand northward if Temple University gets city permission to build a new rowing facility on the east side of the Schuylkill near the Strawberry Mansion Bridge.

Philadelphia's Parks and Recreation Commission on Tuesday announced plans to review Temple's proposal, which calls for building a 23,000-square-foot boathouse and an adjacent dock on Fairmount Park land.

Change comes slowly to Boathouse Row. If the plans are approved, Temple's facility would be the first new boathouse on the historic stretch of the river since 2002, when St. Joseph's University and St. Joseph's Prep put up a $3 million home for their rowing teams. That was the first new boathouse in a century.

Temple and other rowing groups had long launched from the East Park Canoe House, but in 2008, city inspectors deemed that structure unsafe and required everyone to stop using it. Temple has been operating in tents near the Canoe House since then but wants a permanent home for its roughly 100 rowers.

University officials say they cannot return to the East Park Canoe House because it has not been repaired and because they need more space than the 2,000 square feet available there. School officials said they had not yet determined the cost and were unsure how long design and construction would take.

As part of its plan, Temple has offered to contribute $1.5 million to the restoration of the East Park Canoe House, which is separated from the new site by a parking lot.

The city, which owns that building, estimated in 2008 that it would cost as much as $5 million to repair the facility, said Mark Focht, first deputy commissioner for the city's Parks and Recreation Department. The city is working on updating that figure, he said.

In its proposal, Temple also says the project will allow it to work with the city on fixing the retaining wall on the site. Part of the wall has collapsed, leaving the area vulnerable to flooding. Focht estimates that repair would cost $1.5 million.

Temple's proposal is the first test of a new law signed by Mayor Nutter in April 2011 that aims to protect park land. Under the ordinance, the Parks and Recreation Commission must seek public comment as part of a review of any plans that could result in significant changes to park land, including its sale or lease. The law requires public input.

Temple's proposal is available for review and public comments here.

Comments may also be e-mailed to

The commission will hold a hearing on the plans at 6 p.m. Jan. 16 at Lloyd Hall, 1 Boathouse Row.

"It's really a matter of determining the use of the land and whether or not it is appropriate," Commission Chairwoman Nancy Goldenberg said. The commission will make a recommendation to City Council and Nutter.

Andrew McGinley, public affairs and policy manager in Temple's office of government affairs, said that it was too early to determine how any deal between the university and the city would work but that a long-term lease was a strong possibility.