Penn's Landing Feasibility Study

The goal of this study was to test the feasibility of the concept outlined for Penn’s Landing in the Master Plan for the Central Delaware River Waterfront.

DRWC hired multidisciplinary consultant team led by the internationally renowned landscape architecture firm Hargreaves Associates to determine whether the general concept – completing the bridge over I-95 and Columbus Boulevard from Chestnut Street to Walnut Street and creating a tilted park down to the river – was possible from an engineering perspective and to determine the probable cost and associated economic benefits of such an endeavor.

After nine months of study, the major elements of the completed study are:
  • Bridging over I-95 and Columbus Boulevard between Chestnut and Walnut Streets to create a four-acre highway cap.
  • Replacing the current underutilized Great Plaza with a tilted park and combining it with the highway bridge would create an 11.5-acre public space bounded by Walnut and Chestnut to the north and south, and the Delaware River and Front Street to the east and west.
  • Extending the South Street Pedestrian Bridge across Columbus Boulevard to the southern edge of the Penn’s Landing marina basin.
  • Creating a continuous 50-foot-wide pedestrian esplanade along the water’s edge.
  • Completing the on-road section of the Delaware River Trail, a multi-use pedestrian and bicycle facility, between Washington Avenue and Spring Garden Street, connecting Penn’s Landing to city neighborhoods north and south along the waterfront as well as west toward Center City.
  • Creating opportunities for the development of 1500 new residences, 500 new hotel rooms, and 75,000 square feet of new retail space.
  • The cost of the public investment into the project is estimated to be $225 million. The study concluded such an investment would yield nearly $1.6 billion in returns to the City, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the School District of Philadelphia.

We have in-depth information on each of these project elements, including the engineering, transportation and connectivity, open space and public realm design, private development, and the budget and economic impact of this investment. 

Below is the summary presentation given to our Board of Directors which explains the progress this study has made and illustrates many of the most important points.

the Engineering 

Reconnecting the city to the waterfront is more than simply capping over I-95; the project area has a challenging geometry that is not consistent from south to north, making a complete understanding of the conditions key to testing the master plan concept. These types of investigations could not be performed during the Master Plan process but they were the first step in this study in order to confirm the Master Plan’s concept for Penn’s Landing.

While there are existing bridges and caps over I-95, the current configuration is incomplete. While there are limited ways to cross over I-95 and Columbus Boulevard from Old City, the design of the bridges blocks views of the waterfront from Front Street and the experience is unpleasant. In the photograph below, you can see the changing elevations across the project area. Notice that the Chestnut and Walnut bridges are at two different grades. Also note that Columbus Boulevard and I-95 are at different heights as well and that those heights change as you move from south to north.

At Walnut Street, Columbus Boulevard is higher than I-95 but at Chestnut Street I-95 is higher. This condition means that, in order to achieve the mandated clearances over the two roads for trucks and future light rail on Columbus Boulevard, the Walnut Street and Chestnut Street bridges will still have to be at slightly different heights, though the goal with this new plan is to minimize those differences to create as seamless a transition from Chestnut to Walnut as possible. The image below shows how new technology will allow us to rebuild the bridges at a thinner width than they are today. In particular, notice how much lower and flatter the new Chestnut Street Bridge will be, allowing a clear view to the waterfront for the first time. Opening up this view means that, once you’ve arrived at Front and Chestnut, you can feel as though you’ve arrived at the waterfront.

To know whether we could incorporate the existing I-95 caps into the new plan or if the project would be best served by constructing all new structures, the team performed visual assessments of all structures in the Penn’s Landing study area using PennDOT criteria. Based on the evaluation of the structures’ current conditions and estimated lifespan as well as the desire to reduce the “humps” in the Chestnut and Walnut Street bridges to achieve an improved line of sight to the Delaware River, the design team determined that removing all existing structures and building new would be the best and most efficient course of action. While there may be cost savings in the short term by attaching new structure to the existing cap and bridges, upcoming necessary repair and replacement of the structures would cause complications. Constructing all new structures now makes the most sense.

Once the team determined that all new structures would be needed, they proceeded to consider a design of the new bridges that would minimize their structural depth. Minimizing their depth would allow maximized views to the water while achieving an elevation at the east side of Columbus Boulevard that would allow for the desirable slopes of the tilted park as tilts toward the river. However, the depth of any new structure must also allow sufficient depth for plantings. The current I-95 caps have trees planted within raised planters, which block views and create a less inviting park space. Advances in technology mean that we can build much thinner bridges and caps that still allow for trees and other plantings.

The original concept for the tilted park included a structured parking garage underneath. Further investigation into this idea proved that it was cost-prohibitive. Building the park on fill would be just as effective and would mean significant cost savings. Additionally, we are working with the Philadelphia Water Department to understand if some space underneath the tilted portion of the park could have a stormwater management function.

Our engineers also performed geotechnical investigations and soil-testing to better understand the soil conditions underneath the existing Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing. These tests allowed engineers to make recommendations on the type of fills and retaining walls that would be necessary to hold up the tilted portion of Penn’s Landing Park. While we initially looked at a variety of fill options, the geotechnical testing helps us understand that some of the lightweight fill options available today, such as Geofoam, will not actually work for the conditions at Penn’s Landing. This knowledge also helped us determine a much more accurate cost estimate for the project.

the Public Space

The public realm strategies developed in Hargreaves' study build on the Master Plan strategy of creating and improving the physical and visual connections to the river from adjacent city neighborhoods. The Hargreaves study further builds on this idea by creating a strong connection through the site itself:  a spine running north-south from the South Street Pier Park through the Marina Basin, up into Penn’s Landing Park and into the Market Street Development site. By focusing on both east-west and north-south connections, the new Penn’s Landing will be both a cohesive whole and a more integrated part of Old City and Society Hill. 
Within this framework of physical and visual connection, a network of open spaces will activate the district and create new waterfront destinations. The concept for Penn’s Landing includes more than just the 11.5-acre civic park created by bridging over I-95; the plan also establishes a vision for smaller neighborhood-scale public spaces within development sites.


Penn’s Landing Park

The new Penn’s Landing Park will become a word class civic park, providing a flexible recreational green space for both the city and the region and attracting both locals and visitors to the area. Penn’s Landing Park is comprised of two spaces: a four-acre programed plaza created on the new I-95 cap that extends the city grid from Front Street to Columbus Blvd. and Chestnut to Walnut and a lower tilted park that is approximately 7.5 acres and gently slopes from above the east side of Columbus Blvd to the Delaware River.
Programming at the new cap over I-95 is intended to extend the vibrancy of Old City across I-95 and will include a seasonal water feature that will be the new home of the Blue Cross RiverRink in the winter and a sprayground in the summer. Additionally, there will be a café, children’s play areas, and festival and market space. A deciduous canopy of trees will provide dappled shade and comfort for visitors year-round and four season gardens will showcase vegetation with eye-catching colors and textures. DRWC is working closely with Parks and Recreation and the Irish and Scottish Memorial organizations as the design of the upper park moves forward to ensure that the memorials are respected.
The Lower Park will be sloped down towards the water and feature open views of the river. A flexible lawn space will host various recreational activities and passive enjoyment. Additionally, a new amphitheater will be located in this area that can accommodate a range of performance types and sizes.

Spruce Street Harbor Park and Marina Basin

Harbor Park will become a neighborhood-scaled park to serve the new development at the Marina Basin and the existing neighbors in Society Hill by building upon an existing green space at the base of Spruce Street. The design for the space features a multiple-use lawn, café, playground with water features, gardens, and potentially a dog park that preserves the existing mature trees as well as the Christopher Columbus monument. The concept for this area also includes programming for the Marina Basin itself, enabling visitors to interact with the river and touch the water in a controlled environment. Activity ideas for the basin include a barge pool, kayak rentals, paddle boarding, and programs associated with the Seaport Museum.

Market Street Site

A new street connecting Market Street and Chestnut Street will include vehicular and pedestrian circulation that aligns with the north-south path through Penn’s Landing Park and down to the Marina Basin. The street will provide arrival and drop off areas for the potential hotel and residential buildings at the Market Street Development site. The podium level will include a small neighborhood park with food and beverage options, a playground, and an additional water feature. A new stairway will connect down to the esplanade level, which features outdoor dining, moveable seating, additional water features, and retail space. This street will feel like a true urban street, lined with active uses such as coffee shops and neighborhood-serving retail. It also allows for public transit access directly to the residential and hotel sites, increasing non-car access to Penn’s Landing. 

Esplanade at Market Street Site

A new esplanade will be added to the water’s edge, featuring a beautiful allée of trees that provide dappled shade. The fifty foot esplanade will provide space for visitors to run, walk, bike, and roller blade along the path, while enjoying beautiful views of the waterfront. A fifteen foot edge steps down towards the water, creating another area for more passive enjoyment of the space. This esplanade lines the east side of the Market Street development site, which will have a variety of destination retail and restaurants.

Foglietta Plaza

Foglietta Plaza, an existing cap over I-95, is currently an underused public space that lacks appealing programming. The renovation of the plaza will improve a direct connection from Society Hill to the waterfront, while also establishing an inviting and peaceful public space. One potential idea for the space is to transform the existing paved plaza into a new green space that houses the World Sculpture Garden pieces. This garden was originally created in 1976 to showcase sculptures from all over the world and was located just south of the Hyatt Hotel. Returning these sculptures to a more prominent location for public viewing is an integral part of the redevelopment of Penn’s Landing. While renovations of this space are not officially part of the Penn’s Landing redevelopment and instead a part of a separate fundraising effort, considering this space within the context of the entire area was important for the design team’s work.

Columbus Boulevard

The Columbus Boulevard segment of the Delaware River Trail, which will run adjacent to Columbus Blvd between Washington Avenue and Spring Garden, allows for bicycle and pedestrian access for users who do not wish to follow the waterfront esplanade of Penn’s Landing. This trail section will include a separated, bi-directional bike lane separated from a pedestrian sidewalk. Where possible, the trail will be planted with trees and other landscaping. A conceptual alignment for the trail was completed in 2013 and this segment is currently in design. The east edge of Columbus Boulevard, below the new park deck, will feature new artistic tiling, lighting, and/or murals along the existing retaining wall.

South Street Pedestrian Bridge Extension

A new South Street Pedestrian Bridge extension will become an iconic gateway to the waterfront. The bridge will be constructed at a five percent grade and be wide enough for both bikes and pedestrian crossers. The extension will lead visitors down to the South Street Pier, while also providing breathtaking views of the waterfront and the city.

South Street Pier

The master plan proposed development on this pier. At the beginning of Hargreaves’ work, they investigated whether dedicating the entire pier for publically-accessible green space might be a better use of the space. After testing that idea, and in response to public feedback, the final plan proposes development while still incorporating a public space. A multi-use plaza at the tip of the pier could host a variety of programs such markets, seasonal food festivals or food truck events, temporary installations, and public art similar installations. The pier will offer a restaurant space that is protected from the weather and includes seating. The design also calls for green space and plantings, located closer to Columbus Avenue.

Transportation and Connectivity 

While the types of public space and development created by this project are vital to its success, connectivity is the most important aspect of this concept. Public parks and development will not be successful if residents and visitors cannot get there. We’ve already talked about the new bridge over I-95 between Chestnut and Walnut and how that simple connection dramatically improves access to the waterfront; it is also the key multi-modal access to and from Penn’s Landing. Over the last few months, the design team has collaborated with SEPTA and other agencies to facilitate better multi-modal transportation options along the extended Delaware River waterfront, enhancing connectivity between Center City and the waterfront. To provide this connectivity to and along the waterfront, the plan calls for the addition of bus stops, new route extensions, and improved bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
The existing 2nd Street station of the SEPTA Market-Frankford line provides excellent rail service to Penn’s Landing and is less than ¼ mile from the Market Street Site in Penn’s Landing. In addition to this rail service, bus route modifications will provide patrons with more convenient options and closer access points to the waterfront. Routes 21, 33, and 42 will continue to service Penn’s Landing via Chestnut Street, Market Street, and the connecting viaduct, but current SEPTA layover areas will be strategically relocated and additional stops will be added at the future Penn’s Landing Park and the new Market Street Development site to provide additional points of entry to the waterfront. Additionally, a stairway and pedestrian ramp will be added at the intersection of Chestnut Street and Columbus Boulevard, to increase access to the Route 25 bus, which runs along Columbus Boulevard.
Planned bus route extensions will also enable visitors to more easily access the Penn’s Landing area, specifically along South, Lombard, Pine, and Spruce Streets. The Route 40 bus, which runs along South and Lombard Streets, will be extended to Front Street, creating an important link to the new South Street Pedestrian Bridge. The proposed Basin Park area will be better connected with the addition of two stops near Foglietta Plaza and the extension of Route 12 to Columbus Boulevard via Spruce and Pine Streets. This modification will allow for an easier transfer between Route 12 and Route 25 busses, addressing a service enhancement request that SEPTA frequently receives. These two route extensions are currently being considered for immediate implementation, which will help create better access to the waterfront and more convenient travel in the near term.
It is also important to note that, while this study could not investigate the addition of light rail along Columbus Boulevard, the design of the bridges and caps over I-95 took the necessary clearances needed for such transit into account. Nothing proposed in this plan will prevent future light rail on Columbus Boulevard. DRWC remains committed to pursuing improved transit along Columbus Boulevard and Delaware Avenue and recognizes the importance of transit along the waterfront in connecting the waterfront to the city.
In addition to transit route modifications, the plan also includes improvements and additions to bicycle and pedestrian facilities. These enhancements align with the Central Delaware River Master Plan and the City of Philadelphia’s Bicycle Master Plan and include provisions for the Delaware River Trail. New trail improvements will link patrons to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and New Jersey via Race Street, and also create on-street facilities, with both dedicated and shared lanes, on many of the east-west roadways that connect Center City to Penn’s Landing. A new ramp structure will provide access from Chestnut Street down to Columbus Boulevard and connect up with the Delaware River Trail, and a second ramp will establish a new entry point at the end of Market Street to the river’s edge. Additional north-south walkways and promenades in the park will create prominent site lines and great views of the waterfront, while providing links throughout the entire site that do not currently exist. DRWC has also already expressed interest in hosting several bike share stations as part of the City’s planned bike sharing system and those stations will be added to the waterfront in advance of Penn’s Landing improvements so that waterfront access can be improved in the near future.

Pedestrian Connections

As part of the initial public investment into the site, the entire length of the on-road portion of the Delaware River Trail will be constructed along Columbus Boulevard from Washington Avenue to Spring Garden Street where it will connect to the existing segment of the trail that DRWC opened in June 2013. It will be constructed to the same high standards of design as the Penn Street segment. The Delaware River Trail will provide both pedestrians and cyclists a separated, safe means of commuting along the waterfront and will clearly link Penn’s Landing to the existing, vibrant waterfront neighborhoods.

Columbus Blvd

The new South Street pedestrian bridge is also key to improving pedestrian and bicycle access to the waterfront and to increasing connections back into the city. A new South Street Pedestrian Bridge extension will become an iconic gateway to the waterfront. The bridge will be constructed at a five percent grade and be wide enough for both bikes and pedestrian crossers. The extension will lead visitors down to the South Street Pier, while also providing breathtaking views of the waterfront and the city.
The plan for Penn’s landing also includes support for the maintenance of the Riverlink Ferry to Camden, as well as two water taxi terminals located in the proposed Basin Park and near Penn’s Landing Park. These terminals are expected to be in service beginning in 2014.


Water Ferry Taxi Service

Finally, as part of the plan, vehicular access to and along the waterfront will be improved, based on a coordinated traffic study that was completed to address the redistribution of traffic along Columbus Boulevard. To improve access to the new development and parking areas for the residential buildings, a traffic signal will be added on Columbus Boulevard near Chestnut Street, and the seldom-used “scissor ramps” that currently connect Market and Chestnut Streets will be removed. Sections of Spruce Street to the south and Callowhill Street to the north will be converted into two-way operations, creating better connections into Center City. These vehicular access improvements are designed to be implemented by the spring of 2015.

Vehicular Access Map

While the Master Plan proposed a pedestrian-only Market Street bridge, this study concluded that maintaining a vehicular connection to the upper level of the Market Street site would allow SEPTA to provide a greater number of transit connections to the new development. This Chestnut-Market connection is not envisioned to see heavy vehicular traffic but limited car drop-offs and public transit access within the heart of the development. As noted in the earlier Public Realm section, this street is intended to be a vibrant, urban street bustling with activity and lined with development.


Penn's Landing Market Street Development Site

All of these modifications and enhancements work to provide more transportation options to and along the waterfront, while also establishing better and more access to the waterfront. Many of these changes can be implemented in the near term, enabling patrons to visit the waterfront along a convenient and enjoyable route, and paving the way for longer-term improvements that will create new and accessible destinations along the waterfront.

the 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. 
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.

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.  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.

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 activities 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. 

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. 

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.  

The Economic Impact and Budget

Over the past five weeks, we have demonstrated the depth of analysis and creativity that has gone into the design of the Penn’s Landing redevelopment project. This work includes an engineering analysis, solutions to connectivity issues, open space planning, and recommendations for the height and density of the surrounding residential and commercial uses. We hope you agree that the result is a proposal for Penn’s Landing that is both exciting and realistic! As well as proposing innovative design solutions, an equally important goal for the project was determining the probable cost of these improvements. It wasn’t until DRWC had an accurate understanding of the price tag that we could begin began discussions with possible funding agencies about making the project a reality.

As part of the Hargreaves team, the cost estimating firm Becker Frondorf analyzed the proposed public improvements and determined estimates for their construction. The initial public investment in the site will cost approximately $250 million. That cost includes the following infrastructure elements:

  • Complete cap over I-95 and Columbus Boulevard between Chestnut Street and Walnut Street: $125 million
  • Construct tilted park from Columbus Boulevard to the River: $100 million
  • Complete Delaware River Trail from Washington Avenue to Spring Garden Street along Columbus Boulevard: $10 million
  • Extension of South Street Pedestrian Bridge to Penn’s Landing Marina: $15 million

A project of this magnitude requires funding from a variety of sources, including local, state, and federal governmental entities, philanthropic organizations, and private businesses. A public investment of $250 million will not only realize the most important infrastructure and public realm improvements, but also set the stage for private development. Contributions from the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will generate larger returns, magnifying the impact of their initial investments. This “return on investment (ROI)” can be used as an overall framework for the project, which the public sector can use to evaluate and prioritize their funding. ROI in the public sector can be more complex than in the private sector, because returns may include not only ones financial in nature, but also other outcomes that benefit citizens, such as job creation, environmental stewardship, and quality of life.

To complement the design solutions outlined by Hargreaves and to provide insight on the overall impact and return of the $250 million project, DRWC hired Econsult Solutions, Inc., a Philadelphia-based economic consulting firm. Their final report on the economic impact of the Penn’s Landing redevelopment is included below. The overall findings of the analysis overwhelmingly concluded that the $250 million public investment will generate a substantial return for both the City and the Commonwealth. 

These benefits come both from the upfront economic and fiscal impact of the construction of the project itself, as well as the anticipated private development that would follow. Econsult concluded that an investment of $250 million in the construction of the highway cap and park, the Delaware River Trail, and the South Street pedestrian bridge will lead to a one-time creation of 2,780 new construction jobs and $176 million in additional economic activity in the area.

Market analysis of the City of Philadelphia and its region indicates Penn’s Landing could absorb as much as 3.215 million square feet of new development over twenty years. To model the economic impact of the proposed improvements, DRWC used a more conservative estimate of close to 2 million square feet. The construction of new residential and commercial buildings at the two development sites in Penn’s Landing (at Market Street and the Marina Basin) would require an investment of $706 million. According to Econsult’s analysis, that investment will lead to a one-time creation of 8,540 new construction jobs and $527 million in additional economic activity in the region. It will also lead to the one-time addition of $31.6 million in City tax revenue and $35.4 million in Commonwealth tax revenue.  
The operations and visitor activity created by the project will generate ongoing economic and fiscal impacts, and new private development will follow this increase in activity. Once the site is built out, the new development will provide an on-going impact of $287 million in additional economic activity, 2,420 new permanent jobs, $10.6 million in additional City tax revenues annually and $6.5 million in additional Commonwealth tax revenues annually. These figures are drawn from estimated direct expenditures associated with operations, new household income of and spending by new residents, and spending by hotel guests.  
The project will also generate property value gains within the City, both by catalyzing new investment on-site and in nearby areas and by increasing the value of existing properties. In addition to the on-site development at the Market Street and Marina Basin sites, the area immediately surrounding Penn’s Landing (roughly Front Street to the River, Market Street to South Street) and the area connected to Penn’s Landing by the multi-use trail (roughly Oregon Ave to Allegheny Ave, I-95 to the River) were used to calculate the potential property value increase. Combining the incremental property value impact for existing properties near the project area and the property value impact for the new development on site, the project will produce an estimated total property value increase of $532 million. This growth will lead to a $7.1 million increase in annual real estate tax revenues, a $1.1 million annual increase in real estate transfer tax revenues, and a $1.3 million annual increase in use and occupancy tax revenues. 
Of course not all benefits from the project can be easily monetized or quantified. In addition to the economic activity that it will catalyze, the investment will represent a major addition to the City’s recreational offerings, leading to improvements in health, reductions in pollution, and improvement of the region’s overall economic competitiveness. Additionally, the enhancement of Penn’s Landing will be a gain for allPhiladelphians. One of the best parts of the current Penn’s Landing is its role as a civic space for the entire city and this project will only further that goal; indeed, ensuring equity of access to high quality amenities is an important aim of DRWC for all of its projects.  
In today’s dollars, the cumulative impact of the project over a 40-year period will be $403 million additional tax revenues to the City of Philadelphia, $231 million additional tax revenues to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and $118 million additional tax revenues to the School District of Philadelphia. In real dollars, the realization of the project and resultant development is expected to yield $1.6 billion in revenue. Once full build out of development has occurred, Econsult Solutions estimates that $45 million additional tax revenues will be generated annually for the City of Philadelphia, $21 million additional tax revenues will be generated annually for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and $18 million additional tax revenues will be generated annually for the school district of Philadelphia.  
These figures are in line with a large and growing literature exploring the positive impact that parks and open space have on the economic and social health of a city. When considering $250 million of public investment, it is beneficial to consider projects of a similar scale and purpose in other cities and in our own. Looking to other examples can help put this project in context in terms of cost and potential impact. We’ve chosen three here to highlight, but there are numerous examples across the United States and the world.  

Millennium Park, Chicago  

  • Cost: $475 million ($270 million from the City)
  • Size: 24.5 acres

“The park is responsible for $1.4 billion in residential development and increasing real estate values in the area by $100 a square foot.”  – The New York Times

“All of Millennium Park mirrors the rebirth of Chicago, not just the robustness of the real estate market, but the ambition of its patrons, the creativity of its artists and architects, and the ongoing miracle of its ability to transform a no place into a someplace that's extraordinary.” – The Chicago Tribune


Corktown Common/Don River Park (part of the West Don Lands), Toronto

  • Cost: $135 million CN (about $100 million US)
  • Size: 18 acres

“This $135 million structure… has paved the way for more than $2 billion in public- and private-sector investment in the vicinity of the West Don Lands.” The Toronto Globe and Mail

More information on the overall investment ($35 billion!) Toronto is making in its waterfront infrastructure can be found in this article from The Toronto Star and at the Waterfront Toronto website.


Schuylkill Banks, Philadelphia

  • Cost: $60 million (for current extension projects)
  • Size: 1.2 miles

“Investments made by SRDC were therefore partially responsible for an increase of over 150 percent in residential property value near the Schuylkill Banks since 2000.” Plan Philly