The New York City-based Durst Organization has been selected by the board of the nonprofit Delaware River Waterfront Corp. (DRWC) to lead the ambitious redevelopment of Philadelphia’s Penn’s Landing. Their plan centers around a 12-acre park that will cap a section of Interstate 95 and, in effect, fuse together a swath of prime (but largely cut-off and underutilized) riverfront real estate with the Old City district. As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the $225 million freeway-blanketing park, designed by Manhattan-based landscape architecture firm Hargreaves Jones, will stretch between Chestnut Street and Walnut Street with 12 towers of varying heights bookending the new green space. They’ll include apartments, commercial office space, retail, and more.
Work on the park is due to kick off next year.
“I’m pleased with DRWC’s decision and appreciate its collaborative selection process. The Durst Organization’s thoughtful proposal prioritized minority participation and economic impact, without the need for a taxpayer subsidy,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a press release issued by the DRWC. “This is a very large-scale project that will have a great impact on the waterfront for years to come.”
Per the press release, Durst’s $2.2 billion, 3.5-million-square-foot redevelopment plan will create more than 28,000 construction or construction-adjacent jobs while generating $62 million and $113 million in additional city and state tax revenues, respectively, during its four-phase, nine-year building phase. Once complete, the development will bring about just shy of 2,000 permanent on and off-site jobs and create $35 million in annual tax revenues for the city, with a sizable chunk going to its school district.
Durst has also pledged that a minimum of 40 percent of workers hired for construction and operational jobs will be BIPOC, and will give a minority-owned development firm, preferably Philadelphia-based, and an up to 20 percent equity stake in the sprawling project, as reported by the Inquirer.
As detailed by PhillyVoice, Durst’s winning plan calls for erecting six Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects-designed high-rises in an over 7-acre development zone—the so-called Market Street site—north of the new park that will be home to over 1,800 residential units, 225 hotel rooms, and 94,000 square feet of office space along with amenities such as a supermarket and a variety of shops and eateries. A certain number of apartments would be earmarked as affordable. Hargreaves Jones will also serve as landscape architect of this redevelopment area as well.
To the south of the park will be a second redevelopment zone with six squatter towers containing a combined 550 residential units and 26,500 square feet of office space as well as additional open green space and amenities. This southern section, dubbed the Marina Basin site, will be designed by Bjarke Ingels Group.
The entire revitalized, pedestrian-centric riverfront will be laced with walking and cycling trails, public plazas, and other features that, per the Inquirer, are “are meant to draw private development dollars to the area.”
The highly-watched decision brings to an end the bid by the owners of the Philadelphia 76ers to build a new arena at the riverfront site with a twice-as-high price tag that would have involved considerable public subsidies. Currently, the Sixers play at the mid-1990s era Wells Fargo Center, one of four large sports and entertainment venues located at the South Philadelphia Sports Complex. A move north to a new riverfront location at Penn’s Landing would have made the Sixers the only major Philadelphia sports franchise to have a home base outside the massive South Philly complex.
“As we continue to pursue our future home, we remain committed to a vision that anchors a world-class venue with transformative community development, job creation, and economic empowerment for low-income and minority communities,” the Sixers said in a statement reacting to the news shared by the Philadelphia Business Journal. As local news outlets have made loud and clear in their headlines, the announcement has revolved more around the Sixers losing the bid than it has Durst securing the deal with a decidedly more traditional, arena-less mixed-use vision.
The rather contentious Sixers bid, which also included housing, office space, and an African American history museum in addition to a 19,000-seat basketball arena, was one of four transformative proposals under consideration by the DRWC along with the Durst plan, which ultimately resonated the most with the board for various reasons including the aforementioned lack of a public subsidy component, thorough integration into the new park, and an emphasis on climate resilience.
“We are thrilled to announce the selection of the Durst Organization as our next key development partner in DRWC’s effort to revitalize the waterfront,” said Alan Hoffmann, chairman, DRWC Board of Directors, in a press statement. “After considering four strong proposals, we came to the conclusion that the Durst Organization offered the best plan to meet the goals and criteria identified through the public engagement process for the Master Plan for the Central Delaware.”