Thursday, June 30, 2011

Race Street Pier, Day and Night

When last I posted, the Race Street Pier was just a day away from its opening. I've made a couple of visits to the park since then, both day and night. Each time there were reasonable crowds, never busy, but never empty. These groups were always diverse ones, ranging from Fishtown hipsters to Port Richmond kids, from elderly couples to making out teens. I even saw a guy who looked like he was on his way to Old City wheel his Ninja motorcycle out onto the pier to pose for a few pictures taken by his girlfriend.

The last night I was there, the Camden RiverSharks happened to have fireworks after their game, which made for a great view from the terraced seating facing the river. The nighttime treatment of the pier is a real success, with sensitive and varied lighting that is complemented by the lights of the Ben Franklin Bridge soaring overhead. That success extends the daily life of the park and keeps it occupied up until its 11 o'clock closing time.

A new Friends group is starting to think about ways to program the pier to keep attendance up. That's a good thing, because drawing people will probably be this park's biggest challenge. Though it's well designed and certainly a unique setting in Philadelphia, it is off the beaten path. My visits were always intentional - unlike the Schuylkill Banks park or Rittenhouse Square, this is not a park that you happen into on your way somewhere. Even those who live nearby face somewhat daunting trips to the pier, either along six-lane, high-speed Columbus Boulevard, or under a series of underpasses from Old City. Hopefully the Race Street Connector project will make the latter a little more enjoyable. And with even more hope, perhaps the Delaware riverfront will evolve enough over time that more people have opportunities to wander into this great little acre of Philadelphia on the their way to somewhere else.