Penn's Landing Feasibility Study: DEVELOPMENT
At the heart of the Master Plan for the Central Delaware is the notion that key public investment into public space and infrastructure will serve as a catalyst for private development. Waterfront public spaces, though they will support a variety of activities and be attractive to visitors, will need to be surrounded by development to ensure their success. Mixed-use development on Penn’s Landing will provide both the necessary density and variety of uses to bring people to the waterfront while also serving as a physical frame to the open space. Public open space in the city needs surrounding development to be successful and DRWC and the design team understands this. While the development on Penn’s Landing will be done by private developers based on market realities at the time of development, the design team did create a realistic development scheme that reflects the current market as well as the vision for what Penn’s Landing will become.
Over the course of the study, the team evaluated market demand for development at Penn’s Landing, which includes new residential, retail, hotel, and office construction. The evaluation built upon relevant market research completed in this area, and referenced recent reports from Delta Associates, Newmark Grubb Ellis, and the Center City Development Corporation, among others. HR&A supplemented these finding by interviewing real estate brokers and economic development officials familiar with Center City, the Delaware River Waterfront, and the Penn’s Landing site, and reviewing recently completed or proposed development projects near the waterfront and the Penn’s Landing site.
In addition to evaluating market demand, initial cost estimates for new construction at the Penn’s landing site were completed. The team established these estimates by interviewing local developers active in the city, utilizing industry-standard reference sources, and reviewing prior project experiences in the Philadelphia metro area. Synthesizing these findings, the team recommended a development program for Penn’s Landing, estimated its high-level construction costs, and also forecast its absorption over the next 10 years, moving the plan beyond just a concept into a feasible development. Project costs will be discussed in depth in the budget and economic impact section.
Performing this market research was necessary to begin to understand the type and character of the development that could happen within the Penn’s Landing area. It is important to note that, while the general development scheme and massing proposed by the design team are realistic and reflect real-world conditions, what we are showing here is not the only way the sites can be developed. DRWC will work with private developer(s) to ensure that the overall goals of the Master Plan and the Penn’s Landing concept are met.
With the help of this market evaluation, the team was able to begin to understand the range of development that the market could absorb at the Penn’s Landing development sites. Once a maximum absorption was determined, the team then refined a development scheme to determine what was realistic in market conditions that was also at a massing and density appropriate to the waterfront. After choosing to refine one density scenario, the team could ensure that the chosen density and massing would work within the public space framework.
  • range of densities

Pier Park, first tested as a public space at the beginning of the design team’s work, is envisioned as a site with mixed-use development that still preserves the end of the pier for public space. You can read more about the public space here. A mixed-use development here, at the foot of the extended South Street Pedestrian Bridge and adjacent to the Marina Basin development, functions as an anchor and destination and ensures adequate density and activity for the surrounding public space.

Since the Master Plan for the Central Delaware, the Marina Basin site has been envisioned as a place for mid-rise, mixed-use development, and the likely first phase of private development at Penn’s Landing. The buildings frame the Marina Basin and all have active ground floors that create a vibrant basin and Harbor Park area. The development schemes for the Marina Basin site propose building setbacks on upper floors. These setbacks open up views to the river while allowing the buildings to relate better to the scale of the pedestrian promenade that runs along the basin north to Market Street. Site and market analysis led the team to determine that lower densities are a better fit for the Marina Basin, allowing the buildings there to relate to the upland neighborhoods; the Market Street site can support higher densities. DRWC and the team also believe that the Marina Basin site is the likely first site to be redeveloped and interviews with developers indicated that mid-rise, stick-built construction is the most feasible for this location in the near term.

The Marina Basin site includes a hotel at the southernmost portion of the site, with mixed-use residential buildings on the remainder of the area. The team believes that the site will likely be developed in phases within a 10 year period, with the center buildings constructed first, followed later by the remainder of the buildings. The Marina Basin development also includes Harbor Park, which you can read more about here.

DRWC and its design team have met several times with the Seaport Museum and its architect to discuss their plans for a new museum building. While no design has been finalized, any new proposal would give the Seaport Museum a more appropriately sized building for their needs and greater access to the basin to allow for more water-based activities. Redeveloping the parcel as a mixed-use development with a residential component will create a variety of activity and bring more people to the waterfront. Any new Seaport Museum mixed-use development will maintain the north-south promenade so crucial to the physical connectivity of the entire Penn’s Landing site, while creating an edge along the southern side of Penn’s Landing Park. DRWC will continue to meet with the Seaport Museum staff and board members as their plans progress.

The Market Street site is currently a surface parking lot and under-used transportation infrastructure. Both the market and design analysis the Hargreaves team did confirmed that this site can handle more density and building height than the Marian Basin site while still maintaining river views and public space. The western half of the Market Street site would have residential towers with active ground floor uses. They would likely be set on top of a parking podium to provide some onsite parking for residents while also allowing the buildings to rise to the level of the Chestnut-Market Loop road so the ground-floor retail can activate the street. Smaller townhomes will line some of the taller buildings, providing housing and architectural variety while referencing Philadelphia’s urban fabric. As noted in the public space section, this Chestnut-Market Loop road will be a vibrant urban street and will create a sense that this site is more than a waterfront development; it will feel like a neighborhood. 

  • market street phasing
  • Penn's Landing Park Market Street View

These residential buildings will step down towards the river. The water-facing side of the buildings will be lined with active ground-floor uses with outdoor seating. These ground floor uses can spill out onto the waterfront promenade, bringing people right to the river’s edge. The Market Street site will feature neighborhood-scale public open space, as well as additional green space as an amenity for residents in the development.

Due to the density and market conditions, it is envisioned that this site will be built out fully within 20 years. The buildings closest to Penn’s Landing Park would be developed within 10 years and those on the northern half of the site after that. 

  • phasing diagram
  • Penn's Landing Park Rendering East
While this study does not propose a final development scenario, nor does it suggest an architectural style, it is important that any development support Penn’s Landing Park and all other public open space goals, such as the north-south promenade as a key connection. As the land is publicly held by the DRWC, we will be able to create a vigorous set of design guidelines focused on ensuring that waterfront public realm goals are met by any private development.