RXR Realty, which has publicly mulled seeking an aged ocean liner to dock beside a Manhattan pier it owns for use as a hotel, is in a deal with the owners of the SS United States to look into restoring the massive, rusting ship that has loomed over South Philadelphia’s big-box shopping district for more than 20 years.
Under its agreement with the SS United States Conservancy, RXR of New York will “determine the viability of the SS United States’ redevelopment and will explore a range of potential locations for the historic vessel,” the conservancy’s executive director, Susan L. Gibbs, said in a statement this week on its website.
RXR president Michael Maturo said in 2015 that the company was considering docking an out-of-commission ocean liner beside its Pier 57 office and retail project — now largely leased by Google.com LLC — for overnight stays, according to the Real Deal, a real estate news site.
An artist’s rendering on the website of New York-based Handel Architects LLC that was prepared for RXR also depicts the SS United States as a “floating hotel and event space” attached to Pier 57.
“We believe that RXR recognizes the SS United States’ iconic significance and has the vision, commitment, creativity and expertise needed to redevelop America’s Flagship,” Gibbs said in this week’s statement, using her group’s nickname for the vessel.
The Washington, D.C.-based conservancy, which acquired the ship in 2010 with the help of a donation from the late Philadelphia philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, has long sought to have it renovated into a floating hotel, museum, and retail venue, a destination for tourists and ship lovers.
More recently, the luxury cruise-line operator Crystal Cruises vetted, but ultimately abandoned, a plan to resurrect the 1952 vessel — the fastest to ever traverse the Atlantic Ocean — into an addition to its luxury fleet.
RXR said in the conservancy’s statement that it has only begun to evaluate potential uses for the ship, which has been docked on the banks of the Delaware River at Pier 82 on South Columbus Boulevard, across the street from an Ikea store, since 1996.
“Given our history of repurposing and updating some of this country’s most historic structures, we are now working with the SS United States Conservancy to explore what options might exist for the ship," RXR said. "At the end of this period, we will have a better sense as to whether we have a viable plan and, if so, the specifics of that plan and in which waterfront community it might be actualized.”
RXR’s other properties include Manhattan’s Helmsley Building and 75 Rockefeller Center.
Messages left with the company and with Youngwoo & Associates of New York, RXR’s partner on the Pier 57 development, were not immediately returned. Handel Architects did not immediately return a phone call seeking details about its Pier 57 rendering or when it was prepared.
The deal between RXR and the conservancy was first reported locally by the real estate website Curbed Philly.