CONSIDERING the long history of unfulfilled ambitions for a world-class waterfront on the Delaware, the city's vision for the central Delaware has come together with miraculous speed.

In the three years since Mayor John Street signed the executive order that hired Penn Praxis to oversee a waterfront planning process, thousands of citizens have met to hammer out how the city should develop this stretch of the Delaware; a new oversight board, the Delaware River Waterfront Corp. (DRWC) has been created; Mayor Nutter has smartly embraced the plan, and even kicked in money for the first project. (And this week, conflict over philosophical direction broke out over the DRWC negotiating with SugarHouse to grant temporary parking on the waterfront if and when the casino expands and ends up building a parking structure.)

Tonight, more progress will be made when four design and planning finalists make public presentations on how they might develop Pier 11. This site, a little shy of an acre, on Columbus Boulevard at the foot of Race Street is a critical parcel: It will be the first project that executes the public vision for the Delaware. The DRWC invited planning and design firms to pitch themselves as the best to create a public space on the pier.

This review is rarely open to the public. But in keeping with the direction of the planning process, the DRWC is inviting the public to listen to presentations from four design finalists. They won't be pitching specific ideas for the pier, but they will be talking about their qualifications and vision. This is a good chance to dream big: How should the pier be developed to attract people to the waterfront?

Should we build a city beach? Have it be a green oasis? The possibilities are endless, and will be helped by the project's $4 million budget. Presentations are scheduled tonight at the Festival Pier, Columbus Boulevard and Spring Garden Street, from 6-8:30.*