Play It Cool

The centerpiece is the Blue Cross RiverRink, a 21-year-old outdoor ice-skating rink. | Photos by Matt Stanley

Embrace the brisk weather by visiting the Delaware River Waterfront for the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest. The winter respite touts thousands of lights, great food and drinks, comfy rockers and couches, games and more.

Building off of the success of the Spruce Street Harbor Park, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation worked with Philadelphia partners Garces Group, Groundswell Design Group, and Art Star Gallery & Boutique to transform Penn’s Landing into a seasonal riverfront park.

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Drier Ground

Venice Island's underground basin can temporarily store up to four million gallons of stormwater runoff. | Photos courtesy The Philadelphia Water Department

In the works for the better part of a decade, Venice Island opened in early October. The five-acre site is sandwiched between the Lock and Cotton Street bridges in Manayunk, and lies downhill of Manayunk’s stormwater flow, which resulted in storm-induced flooding and combined sewer overflows (CSOs). To address this problem, the Philadelphia Water Department and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation collaborated with the Manayunk Development Corporation to demolish the existing Venice Island Recreation Center and rebuild to include an underground basin that can temporarily store up to four million gallons of stormwater runoff and a pump house with a sloping green roof. The site’s other green infrastructure includes a rain garden, porous pavement and tree trenches.

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Blazing Trails

The first city-approved pumptrack has been welcomed by many. | Photo by /

Cyclists of all ages and skill levels now have a new destination for fun and fitness. The Philadelphia Pumptrack in West Philadelphia officially opened May 10, and has been a popular spot for those looking to take on the rolling mounds and raised banks—called berms—of a beginner and advanced dirt track. The first city-approved pumptrack has been welcomed by many.

Heidi Grunwald, one of three cyclists who helped create the track, says that on a typical weekend day, about 100 to 150 people are riding. Grunwald, along with fellow bikers Harlan Price and Kenn Rymdeko, worked with the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Advanced Sports Inc., Neighborhood Bike Works and local bike shops to help make the track a reality.

“All of these people came together and they saw the vision, and they saw the importance of it,” Price says. Riders can bring their own track-approved bikes or use the 13 BMX or single-gear mountain bikes for free. “Cities don’t traditionally build this kind of stuff. If kids wanted to ride their bikes on dirt or jump or ride in the woods, they had to build their own stuff,” Price says.


Park It

Dilworth Park was designed to allow stormwater to be collected, filtered and reused for irrigation, eliminating the need for potable water. | Photo by Sahar Coston-Hardy for OLIN

After seven years, Dilworth Park (formerly Dilworth Plaza) reopened in September. Looking to reestablish William Penn’s original Center Square, the $55 million revamp features a fountain, café, large glass entrances to SEPTA transit and soon an expansive Great Lawn, public art installation and walkways to South Penn Square.

The project’s design team was led by Urban Engineers, and included architects from KieranTimberlake and landscape architects from OLIN, which planned the park to have a number of sustainable elements, including the 11,600-square-foot computer-programmable shallow fountain, which uses recycled rainwater and will be transformed into an ice rink in the winter. The entire park was designed to allow stormwater to be collected, filtered and reused for irrigation, eliminating the need for potable water.

Seventy-six new trees were planted around the park, increasing the existing tree canopy by 26 percent, and the two 96-foot-long glass pavilions will allow daylight into the concourse level, reducing the need for artificial lighting. Approximately 12,000 square feet of granite pavement and 5,000 square feet of wall finish in the new concourse was reused from the old Dilworth Plaza. The park and concourse were also designed with the most effective passive heating and cooling strategies in mind.

Hungry visitors can enjoy Cuban fare at the Rosa Blanca café by Jose Garces, and events and activities are planned throughout the year, including a beer garden for Oktoberfest.


Bank On It

Photo by Raffi Berberian

Walkers, runners and cyclists can now add a new path to their outings: the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk. The $18 million, 2,000 foot-long concrete structure runs parallel to the eastern shore of the river from Locust Street to the new stair tower at the South Street Bridge, and extends the Schuylkill River Trail.

As part of The Circuit—300 miles of multi-use network of trails throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania with 50 miles in progress and more planned—the Boardwalk provides more direct access to the Trail for residents in South and West Philadelphia. The Boardwalk sits about 50 feet from the shore and its 15-foot wide pathway has four widened overlooks to allow people to rest, fish and take in the Center City and University City views without blocking the main drag.

The entire path is supplemented with solar-powered overhead lights for evening runs and rides. The project was built by Crossing Construction, Weeks Marine Construction, Nucero Electric and All Seasons Landscaping. Boardwalk design and engineering was funded by the City of Philadelphia, and was completed by URS, Pennoni Associates and CH Planning. Ramp design was executed by Michael Baker Engineers. The Boardwalk is part of the Schuylkill River Development Corporation’s plan to connect the Trail on the Schuylkill Banks from the Water Works to Bartram’s Garden by 2016.