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Part of Penn Praxis' waterfront vision
Part of Penn Praxis' waterfront visionRead more

ANYONE REMEMBER Independence Harbor?

How about Niketown? The marina and Disney entertainment complex on the Delaware? The riverfront World Trade Center?

These are just some of the many marchers in the long parade of Penn's Landing and Delaware waterfront projects . . . a parade the city has spent millions to keep going for 30 years.

What we have to show for all this hoopla is a few big-box stores, two proposed casinos that people are fighting over, and a whole lot of guano. Not all of it is from the seagulls.

That's why so many - this page included - support the big vision for the central Delaware riverfront created by Penn Praxis, a clinical arm of University of Pennsylvania, and thousands of citizens over the past 18 months. For once, the ideas for the waterfront haven't come from a bunch of politicians and developers drooling over some mythical "family-entertainment complex" but from a thoughtful, people-centered plan that would provide access to one of the city's most valuable public spaces.

That vision was rolled out to the public five months ago. At that meeting, Mayor Nutter pledged his support and promised to take steps to get it going.

The first order of business: He promised to reform the board of the Penn's Landing Corp. within 30 days. The mayor also pledged to provide a master plan for the Delaware, and transform Pier 11 into a recreational pier.

Nutter's announcement prompted cheers. It was as if he had flipped the switch on an exciting new chapter for the city.

Only problem is, the lights didn't go on right away. Five months later, the old Penn's Landing board remains. The administration says it has been working on the new board and is carefully reviewing candidates and the many technical details required.

Hey, we know such things can take far longer than anticipated. And a few things have intruded on the mayor's attention, like a worldwide financial crisis. While we are optimistic that this is still a priority of the mayor, we hope he sends a signal soon about its progress. Because it would be a shame if the new vision for the Delaware riverfront went the way of other harebrained schemes for this valuable piece of the city.

Especially because the plan provides an opportunity for the mayor to take credit for something that is becoming increasingly scarce in this world: good news. The vision for the waterfront got many citizens involved and excited about the possibilities. And although the full-blown plan would require big money, the first steps wouldn't require the city to invest much. Foundation funding is being tapped for some of the work, including a temporary bike trail that the Center City District is working on.

The timing is right, too, because the federal government may be poised to plow money into infrastructure projects. This plan would be an ideal chance to soak up some of that money.

The dreams for the Delaware riverfront can become the city's new reality. Let's get it done. *