Planning the Riverfront: A Success Story in Planning and Plan Implementation
By Kara M. Kalupson
On Saturday October 16, 2010 I hopped in my car around 9:00 a.m. to meet Temple students and faculty at the Wilmington Train Station. I arrived early, around 10:00am which gave me time to orient myself to this city that was never more than an exit on the I-95 corridor between Baltimore and Philadelphia.
I parked in a newish looking outdoor parking lot and found my way into the temporary ticket office of the train station which is undergoing a major renovation. It’s obvious that a lot of construction improvements have recently taken place by the look of new features such as concrete curbing, brick sidewalks, light fixtures and landscaping.
The train was due to arrive at 10:21 am but arrived about 15 minutes late, much to the chagrin of our tour guide and professor, Dr. William Cohen. Apparently we were on a really tight schedule which was being made ever tighter by the delay. At last the train arrived and with a big flutter of activity we were on our way to the river walk.
The City of Wilmington was built around the confluence of the Christina and Brandywine Rivers. The Christina is a tidal river approximately 100 yards wide with a varying depth. The new river walk, located along the banks of the Christina is constructed of a wide variety of materials including concrete pavers and faux decking. The walking is really easy as the grades are very flat, and the sunshine and windy weather conditions made it a pleasurable experience.
A variety of land uses are located along the walk including commercial, residential, business and industrial development. The new Chase Center, Wilmington’s new convention center, Frawley Stadium, home to the Wilmington Blue Rocks and the Riverfront Market are all located in the area. The river walk terminates at the DuPont Environmental Education Center at the Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge, a 258-acre freshwater tidal marsh. The center itself is located many feet above the natural terrain and offers tremendous views of the marshland (was that a landfill in the distance?). There, we were treated to a delicious boxed lunch and watched A New Century Waterfront: A Vision for the Rivers (1994) which summarized the efforts undertaken to complete the vision.
Dr. Cohen, as Executive Director of the Governor’s Task Force on the Future of the Brandywine and Christina Rivers from 1992-1994 was immensely involved in the planning and implementation of this project. The former Governor, Russell W. Peterson arrived to join our group for lunch and some quick remarks regarding the planning process. The passion with which he spoke about planning and this project was very inspiring.
We were scheduled for a river boat tour along the Christina and Brandywine Rivers, but due to high winds, the tour was cancelled. Instead our river guide spoke about the rich history of Wilmington as a world-wide leader in ship building.
The tour wrapped up with a quick trip through the market. I was very impressed with the new river walk and am sure it will be a focal point of activity throughout the years. Hopefully Wilmington will become more than just an exit on the I-95 corridor.
Community and Regional Planning Students take a trip to
New York City
By Donna L. Fabry
When several Community and Regional Planning students took a trip to New York City during the Spring 2010 semester, it wasn’t a simply sightseeing tour — they were exploring the city from a planning perspective.
The trip included a walk through iconic Times Square, lunch at Grand Central Station, a guided tour of the Tenement Museum, and a stroll along the High Line Trail, an abandoned elevated railway that has been converted into a walking trail.
At Times Square, the group surveyed new streetscaping measures and traffic patterns that were implemented in early 2009 to increase pedestrian safety and to improve traffic speed through Midtown Manhattan.
Vehicular traffic is now prohibited on Broadway between 42nd and 47th streets, which created space used for pedestrian plazas and bike lanes. The changes have increased pedestrian safety and enhanced the overall Times Square experience, prompting them to be permanently adopted in February 2010.
The group then walked to Grand Central Station to take in the building’s aesthetics before a brief stop for lunch. Grand Central, a premier example of Beaux Arts architecture, was at the center of the landmark Supreme Court decision that established air rights and heralded a victory in support of historic preservation.
The Tenement Museum, located on the Lower East Side, offered several tour options. The group split up for either a tour of the tenement building from the perspective of a resident Irish or Jewish family, or a guided walking tour of the neighborhood, including nearby Chinatown.
It was interesting to observe how this area, which has a strong history as a settling place for immigrant groups, maintains this tradition. Today, Manhattan’s Chinatown is home to one of the world’s largest ethnic Chinese populations outside of Asia.
After a small adventure navigating the subway, the group made it to its final destination, the High Line Trail. The trail, which runs along 10th and 11th Avenues on the West Side from Gansvoort Street north to the Javits Convention Center at 34th Street, is an exciting recent addition to New York City’s park system.
The trail runs along an elevated freight rail line that had been in service until 1980. Left abandoned for nearly three decades, the rail was slated for demolition when community residents formed the Friends of the High Line nonprofit organization and advocated to transform the rail line into an elevated park. The southern section of the 1.45-mile trail opened in June 2009; the northern section is scheduled for completion in 2011.
The trip was sponsored by the Temple Planning Student Organization and received funding support from the Department of Community and Regional Planning.
CRP students tour redevelopment and revitalization initiatives in Wilkes-Barre, PA
As Wilkes-Barre continues to experience significant redevelopment and revitalization, it serves as an important model for creative strategic planning and coalition building among government agencies, civic organizations and businesses.
Graduate student Mari Radford arranged for the Community and Regional Planning students to travel to Wilkes-Barre to learn firsthand about it.
On Saturday, November 8, 2008, the CRP students spent the day with Jim Brozena, P.E., Executive Director of the Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority; Larry Newman, Vice President of Economic and Community Development of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry, and a trained urban planner and historic preservationist; Tim Gilmore, President of Wilkes University; and Frank Pasquini, retired Vice President of Kings College, and a leader in the Downtown Business Association.
Situated along the banks of the Susquehanna River and in the Wyoming Valley, Wilkes-Barre has been susceptible to flooding. Since the 1970s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been developing an extensive levee system that could protect the city from flooding, but at the cost of making the river inaccessible and virtually invisible to the residents of Wilkes-Barre.
Recognizing that the city need not sacrifice its relationship to the river, the Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority has been renovating the levees and developing a riverfront park.
Jim Brozena led the CRP students on a tour of the eastern bank of the development site, known as the River Common. Scheduled to open in Spring 2009, the River Common will feature two levee portal openings with sliding floodgates, a state-of-the-art lighting system, a 750-seat outdoor amphitheater wired for video simulcast, a landing and landscaped gardens and walkways. Visitors will have wireless internet access.
The River Common will be a destination unto itself and serve as an artery to the cultural and recreational facilities in Luzerne County. The western bank will feature a parking lot, a boat launch and possibly boathouses.
Wilkes-Barre is experiencing renewed growth and development beyond the riverfront. Larry Newman led the CRP students through the downtown area to show how strategic planning, programs and investments by the Chamber of Commerce, the universities and businesses are bringing economic redevelopment to the post-industrial city.