Unused industrial waterfront changed to lively park

Harbour Park, Spruce Street

date Summer 2014

Located at Penn’s Landing, the Delaware River Waterfront used to be an underused industrial site on the east side of Philadelphia. Developed by Delaware Riverfront Corporation, a non-profit organization established in 2009, and funded in part by an arts grant, Harbour Park emerged as a seasonal, pop up feature in 2014 meant to revitalize the waterfront. The park cost $500,000 to set up, including design services as well as physical fabrication. Mostly open through the summer, the park features a rotating roster of popular eateries and activities. It is free and open to the public.
Visitors are able to stroll around the park and through the mist walk, relax in one of the many hammocks, lounge on the urban beach, and dine in a floating restaurant. The site is also meant to act as a venue for festivals, concerts, and movies. Each year, the park’s offerings expand. In 2015, oversized Jenga and Chess games were laid out around the central Columbus Monument. Couples, friends, families, and individual visitors all equally enjoy the public space.
Harbour Park’s temporal quality lends it an air of rarity. This attracts many local visitors as the park has become increasingly popular but is only available for a limited amount of time. It has evolved to become an attraction for visitors from all over the country as sort of a novelty experience, thereby increasing investment in local businesses and ventures.
Featured in The Huffington Post’s list of best urban beaches, Harbour Park has quickly become one of the staples of Philly entertainment. It’s approach towards employing local companies and local people has struck a positive chord with native Philadelphians who see the park as homegrown and authentic instead of a corporate machine. Some of Philadelphia’s most iconic homegrown dining options can be had at the park; from nationally famous Federal Doughnuts and Franklin fountain ice cream, to Philly cheesesteaks and soft pretzels.
The park incorporates both the colonial legacy of Philadelphia as well as the industrial past of the waterfront. There is a pre-existing monument to Columbus in the middle of the space. The area the park was founded in is also a historic site; called Penn’s Landing it commemorates the founding of Pennsylvania by William Penn in 1682.

Image: Matt Stanley (permission pending)