RXR Realty LLC of New York plans to renovate the SS United States, the massive ocean liner that has spent decades deteriorating at a dock near South Philadelphia’s big-box shopping district, into a hotel-and-museum complex for a yet-to-be determined city’s waterfront.
The developer, whose properties include Manhattan’s Helmsley Building and 75 Rockefeller Center, is partnering with the 68-year-old vessel’s nonprofit owner, the SS United States Conservancy, to repurpose the ship as a “permanently moored floating structure anchored by a hotel," it said in a release Tuesday.
RXR is seeking interest from large waterfront cities, including Philadelphia, “with the intent of starting a conversation about how this unique project can be a major driver of economic activity through the creation of a new, contemporary centerpiece for their waterfronts,” it said.
Other cities being approached include Boston, New York, Miami, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, according to RXR.
“The SSUS is an iconic piece of American engineering and design, and we’re committed to finding a permanent home and restoring this one-of-a-kind luxury ocean liner into a vibrant, mixed-use destination,” RXR chairman and chief executive Scott Rechler said.
RXR’s announcement comes more than a year after it said it had a deal with the vessel’s Washington, D.C.-based conservancy to look into restoring the massive, derelict ship, which has been docked since 1996 on the banks of the Delaware River at Pier 82 on South Columbus Boulevard, across the street from an Ikea store.
The SS United States Conservancy, which acquired the ship in 2010 with the help of a donation from 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 vessel — the fastest to ever traverse the Atlantic Ocean — into an addition to its luxury fleet.
The SS United States runs 990 feet from stem to stern, as long as New York’s Chrysler Building is high. It encompasses about 600,000 square feet of space that can be developed, or about half the size of the One Liberty Place office tower in Center City.
RXR estimated that its plan for the vessel — which include a museum focused on the ship’s history and on mid-20th-century art and design, in addition to a hotel — would create more than 1,000 jobs. Its request for expressions of interest will be sent to targeted cities sometime this week.
Philadelphia government spokesman Paul Chrystie said officials are “always willing to listen when someone proposes a concept that could create new jobs and economic activity in Philadelphia.”