Published on June 22 2017
  • cherry street pier platform rendering

The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation announced their plan to transform Philadelphia’s Municipal Pier 9 into the Cherry Street Pier, creating a multi-functional public community space for creative collaboration and civic engagement. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is investing $683,000 in the project to test a model for repurposing civic spaces to help cities increase economic opportunity and promote inclusion.

The approximately $4 million project will build on Delaware River Waterfront Corporation’s successful track-record of activating underutilized public spaces. It aims to create a hub for skill-building and innovation, while connecting Philadelphia’s growing community of entrepreneurs, makers and artists. To this end, it will open opportunities for dialogue, learning, collaboration and engagement centered on community issues and opportunities. 


  • cherry street pier site plan

Cherry Street Pier will feature four zones of activity: The Hub, a food and beverage venue at the entrance to the pier; The Garage, a collaborative working space featuring shared offices and studios built out of re-purposed shipping containers; The Platform, an open programmable space for pop-up retail markets, art installations and public events; and The Garden, an open-air park and café with views of the Delaware River. 

“To remain relevant, civic assets and public spaces need to be more than gathering spaces; they must create value and provide amenities that engage the community and advance economic opportunity. We hope the pier will help meet these goals, serving as a model for transforming public spaces to support up-and-coming entrepreneurs, makers and artists, while driving excitement and connection amongst diverse residents,” said Patrick Morgan, Knight Foundation program director for Philadelphia.

Municipal Pier 9, the 93-year old warehouse owned by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation features over 64,000 square feet of open space that has been vacant for decades. This unique, post-industrial site is conveniently located at Columbus Boulevard next to Race Street Pier, making it easily accessible to visitors who are taking public transportation, walking, biking or traveling by car.  

  • pier 9 present

The intention for the space, as articulated in the corporation’s Master Plan for Central Delaware, is for it to become a highly visible cultural and commercial anchor for the area. Rather than undertaking a complete renovation, Delaware River Waterfront Corporation has opted for a phased approach which will return the space to active use more quickly and build momentum for further investment as the project grows. The physical changes to the Pier structure and building shed were carefully chosen to be both economical and preserve its historical character.

“We’re thrilled to reintroduce this historic pier to active, public use, and to provide a unique resource for our city’s growing creative community,” said Joe Forkin, in-coming President of DRWC. “Cherry Street Pier is the latest example of the vision of the Master Plan coming to fruition, and will contribute to the ongoing resurgence of the Delaware River Waterfront.”

Support for the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation forms part of Knight Foundations efforts to leverage public spaces and civic assets, such as parks, recreation centers, libraries and more, to promote inclusion and foster vibrant, connected communities. Knight has made several investments in this area including the national $40 million Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative, initially piloted in Philadelphia. 

Background on Cherry Street Pier

The physical changes to the Pier structure and building shed were carefully chosen to be both economical and historically-minded. The garage doors on the north side of the building will be replaced with glass doors, maintaining the industrial character and regular pattern of the steel trusses, while allowing for more light and air to enter the space and also establishing a clearer connection to the Race Street Pier next door. Additionally, the plans call for removing the last 155’ of the roof, exposing the structure’s beautiful steel trusses and stone masonry headhouses, and creating a new open air public space that will highlight the unique beauty of this industrial relic. A curtain wall will separate the outdoor space from the event and office space, with glass garage doors which, when open, will allow for a seamless connection between the two. 

Food and beverage offerings in the first phase will be offered in flexible spaces such as converted shipping containers and/or food trucks with picnic benches and movable tables and chairs. In later phases, these may be converted into a full-scale restaurant and bar. 

The Garage will be the programmatic heart of the pier. The First Phase will feature 14 rentable office/studio spaces in converted shipping containers, ranging in size from 160 to 480 square feet. Spaces will have flexible lease terms, increasing opportunities for participation. DRWC will solicit expressions of interest from artists and others interested in renting space in the Pier. Updates will be provided on the website, and interested parties can subscribe to a database to stay informed.

A rotating selection of available market spaces will be available to rent for an afternoon, day, weekend, or longer period. Approximately 10,800 square feet of open floor plan will be available for large format art installations and performances. Tenants will have preferential access to market and exhibition spaces as well.

Visitors will travel along the Pier’s central spine, through artist studios, market stalls, and art installations, and arrive at a space that is the first of its kind in Philadelphia: a public park which is the anchor of a new type of civic institution. By peeling the roof back, and leaving historic steel truces and stone masonry exposed, the Garden will not only be an open air park that offers visitors a distinctive perspective on the Delaware River, but it will also serve as a space to revel in this dramatic historic structure. With traditional park elements like benches, railings, planting beds, and trees, the Garden will certainly be a gathering space for all. DRWC envisions this gathering space as an activator for continued transformation of the Delaware River waterfront.

The Pier’s potential as a collective space has been established with the hosting of the Fabric Workshop and Museum’s latest collaboration with renowned artist Ann Hamilton on her exhibition, habitus. Hamilton’s large-scale installation brought over 11,500 visitors to the waterfront during its five-week run, followed shortly thereafter by an exhibition of Jordan Griska’s multifaceted sculpture, Wreck, presented by Philadelphia Contemporary.

DRWC is the developer of this project and is responsible for the concept for the space which they assembled a team of expert consultants to refine and execute. The team includes Groundswell Design Group, Interface Studio Architects, W.J. Castle Engineers and D3 Development. Construction will be managed by Scungio-Borst. DRWC anticipates construction to begin later this summer and opening the space to the public in the late spring or early summer of 2018.