Posted: Sun, May. 27, 2012, 3:00 AM
Planning new life for the ‘Lower Schuylkill’
By Linda Loyd
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Philadelphians are familiar with the picturesque Schuylkill River Trail, and, farther south, the gritty storage tanks at Sunoco’s Philadelphia refinery. But there’s a vast stretch of the Schuylkill that many people drive past, but few actually see.
The city says that six miles along the river’s banks, from University City to Philadelphia International Airport, is prime for commercial development and accounts for 68 percent of Philadelphia’s underutilized and vacant industrial land.
It’s home to refineries, utilities, freight rail, scrap yards, and remnants of industries that grew up on rail lines that passed through the area.
This "Lower Schuylkill" is the last unplanned tract in the city, said Alan Greenberger, deputy mayor for economic development. "In a city that’s out of land, but for this, we should be thinking long and hard about what we see happening there."
The City Planning Commission, Commerce Department, and Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. are finalizing a Lower Schuylkill master plan to transform the 4,100 acres into another Route 202 corridor — a hub for businesses, technology start-ups, industry, and research spun out of nearby universities and medical schools.
The goal is to create jobs that were lost when companies including U.S. Gypsum, National Heat & Power, M.A. Bruder & Sons (MAB paints), DuPont Co. Marshall Laboratory, and Breyers Ice Cream Co. downsized, relocated, or closed.
They left behind empty buildings and large parcels from the 34th Street Bridge and Grays Ferry Avenue to the airport and the Navy Yard.
The master plan for the Lower Schuylkill, which will be released this fall, envisions new city streets, an extension of the Schuylkill River Trail to the west bank, and construction of a pedestrian walkway across an old Conrail bridge.
One goal will be to link the campuses of the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, Children’s Hospital, and the University of the Sciences south to Bartram’s Garden, part of the Fairmount Park system, and beyond.
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