Steps away from Spruce Street Harbor Park and Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest/Winterfest, the newest Delaware River waterfront attraction, Cherry Street Pier, is set to make its debut this fall. Announced today, the $5 million project will officially open on Oct. 12.
Cherry Street Pier will transform Pier 9, an early 20th century maritime warehouse, into a massive gathering space for the public.
Vacant for decades, the more-than-55,000-square-foot space will return to life with an open-air park and cafe with riverside views and a collaborative working area of artist studios and offices built of repurposed shipping containers.
The revived pier will also feature a permanent bar, a spacious section designed for pop-up retail markets, art installations, and public events, and multiple food vendors scattered throughout.
"Built in 1919, the pier is nearly 100 years old, so it had some really unique and beautiful architectural aspects that we wanted to preserve," says Lizzie Woods, vice president of planning and capital programs for the Delaware River Waterfront Corp., the developer behind Cherry Street Pier. "Our goal was to maintain the industrial grittiness and weathered look of it while bringing it up to a level of care that allows for public access."
A free festival presented in partnership with Philadelphia Contemporary, a nonprofit that brings visual art, performance art, and spoken word to various locations throughout the city, will start on Saturday, Oct. 13, and run through Oct. 28. Called Festival for the People, the three-week waterfront celebration features events and interactive art installations from local and international artists that will fill both Cherry Street Pier and the adjacent Race Street Pier.
"The festival presents a true representation of what this pier is supposed to be for the city — a place for artists and the community to meet each other in a public space," says Emma Fried-Cassorla, director of marketing and communications for the DRWC.
Events during the festival are designed to appeal to a wide spectrum of creative interests, ranging from comics to dancing, from tattoo art to internet culture.
"It's a celebration of populism," says Nato Thompson, artistic director of Philadelphia Contemporary. "The scene will be a hybrid of a living room meets playground, creating a great opportunity to both enjoy the offerings of Philadelphia's cultural scene and also reflect on the historical moment that we are in."
At the core of Cherry Street Pier is the desire to create a space for artists to both produce and display work, while allowing the public to observe all aspects of the process. The space will house 14 window-front-lined studios, with artists and groups ranging in disciplines from painting to poetry to sculpture and beyond.
These include performance collective Orchestra 2001, nonprofit Theater Philadelphia, and former Philadelphia poet laureate Yolanda Wisher. Residents of the studios will have the opportunity to showcase their works in the venue.
"The artist community they're building is like what South Street used to be, a place for promoting free-thinking and inspiring others," says forthcoming resident Cori Shepherd, a sculptor and doll artist. "There's already a lot of synergy happening between the artists and talks about future collaborations."
For Shepherd, the Cherry Street Pier studio will be his first official maker's space, enabling him to expand out from his bedroom and truly grow his business. It's a dream Shepherd hadn't envisioned for at least another two years, as he worked to be able to afford a pricier Center City studio.
"The studio rates were intentionally set substantially below market rate," notes Woods. "We wanted to welcome emerging artists who might not be able to afford a brick-and-mortar in the city but who could benefit from a designated place where they can get their creative juices flowing."
Perhaps the other highlight of Cherry Street Pier is the park that resides at the back of the building. After strolling by artist studios, market stalls, and art installations, visitors will find themselves in an open-air portion of the building where part of the roof is pulled back. Scattered with benches, trees, and other plants, the setting is meant to fuel discussion and collaboration while inviting people to admire the dramatic historic structure of the building.
"Public spaces have an opportunity to create deeper connections between people and their city," says Patrick Morgan, director for Philadelphia of the Knight Foundation, one of the funders of the project. "With Knight Foundation support, Cherry Street Pier will be a model site to help look at Philadelphia's public spaces in a brand-new way, providing resources for creative spaces and communities that engage all citizens."
Artists at Cherry Street