Friday, January 16, 2015

Delaware Station Hotel

Developer, Bart Blatstein, ever the optimistic visionary behind Northern Liberties' Piazza and a grand proposal for Broad and Washington, isn't afraid of diving in headfirst. If you thought his proposed casino in the old Inquirer Building was outlandish, the next stop on Blatstein's Philadelphia Dreamin' tour won't disappoint you.

Along with Joseph Volpe, Blatstein has agreed to purchase the Delaware Station power plant from Exelon. The plant is just north of Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown.

Volpe's Ceachaphe Event Group organizes lavish wedding receptions throughout Philadelphia, and the pair plan to capitalize on the power station's unique architecture, cavernous interior, and prime location. Housing two hotels, each with its own massive ballroom, the venue might even come with its own marina. 

It's a winning plan for both the historic building and the neighborhood, but its location on the Delaware River might be its most positive attribute. For decades, Philadelphia has struggled to embrace our rivers. Park improvements along the Schuylkill have transformed residents' relationship with our waters, and the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation is struggling to follow suit.

But unlike cities such as Chicago or Seattle, heavily developed along their shores with both parks and skyscrapers, Philadelphia's developers have largely shied away from marketing waterfront properties.

With the exception of Manayunk, the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers are parks, ports, or parking lots. Where the built environment does meet the shores, it's vastly suburban or abandoned. Perhaps the financial failure of Waterfront Square and the massive outpouring of resistance against SugarHouse Casino have discouraged developers from getting their feet wet.

Redeveloping, and rethinking the Delaware Station might signal the beginning of a new trend, one our rivers should be eager to receive. As the DRWC continues to improve the river's public space north and south, turning on the lights above Penn Treaty Park helps break the mental barrier between Center City and points north. 

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