Thursday, February 3, 2011

S.S. United States Saved

The transaction between Gerry Lenfest and Norwegian Cruise Line/Genting Hong Kong is complete. The ship was purchased for $3M by Gerry Lenfest on behalf of the S.S. United States Conservancy, who pledged $5.8M last summer. The transaction was awaiting approval from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Susan Gibbs is President of the Conservancy and granddaughter of the ship's designer, Philadelphia native William Francis Gibbs.

Because of the economic battle the ship now faces and the public funds that will ultimately be required, the ship may not remain in Philadelphia. With the second casino nixed by former Governor Ed Rendell, the largest opportunity for a privately funded waterfront entertainment complex is off the table. In addition to Philadelphia, the Conservancy is entertaining offers from New York City and Miami.

At 650,000 square feet, the estimated cost to restore the ship as a stationary attraction similar to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA is at $200M. The ship was originally outfitted with tons of asbestos which has since been removed. This leaves engineers and architects with the daunting task of rebuilding the interior instead of restoring it.

$2.8M remain out of Lenfest's pledge, the same philanthropist who donated $2M towards the Academy of the Arts' Cherry Street promenade, enough to maintain and store the ship for twenty months at its current South Philadelphia dock across from Ikea.

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