Temple nixes plans for new Schuylkill boathouse

MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The East Park Canoe House near Strawberry Mansion Bridge was condemned in 2008.
MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The East Park Canoe House near Strawberry Mansion Bridge was condemned in 2008.
Posted: May 02, 2013

AMID CONCERNS raised by open-land preservationists, Temple University has withdrawn a proposal to build a multimillion-dollar boathouse on the banks of the Schuylkill.

The university initially announced plans in January to spend between $8 million and $12 million to erect a 23,000-square-foot boathouse on Fairmount Park land at the north end of Boathouse Row near the Strawberry Mansion Bridge.

The plan was the first test of the Open Lands Protection ordinance, established in April 2011, which requires any institution using public land to provide or pay for an equivalent amount of green space to replace it.

The city Parks and Recreation Commission raised questions about Temple's proposal at a public hearing in January after the university offered $1.5 million to help restore its former boathouse, the East Park Canoe House - which was condemned in 2008 - in lieu of providing new open space.

In a letter informing Parks and Recreation Commissioner Nancy Goldenberg of the university's plans earlier this week, Temple senior vice president Ken Lawrence Jr. wrote that Temple would consider the commission's request that it explore redeveloping the Canoe House instead of building a new boathouse.

"We are still carefully exploring this option but are not in a position to make a commitment without further planning, consideration and discussion with stakeholders," Lawrence wrote.

The Philadelphia Parks Alliance yesterday praised the commission for its success in working with Temple.

"While the Parks Alliance did not oppose the conversion of parkland to private use by Temple . . . we believe that rigorous implementation of the Open Lands Protection ordinance is critical to ensuring that there is no net loss of parks, recreation and open space," the alliance said.

Temple's rowing teams, university spokesman Ray Betzner said in January, have been operating out of large, temporary tents.

"We have not abandoned plans for a new home or committed to renovating the East Park Canoe House for use as a university boathouse," Lawrence said yesterday. "We will continue to work with city officials and stakeholders at Temple and in the community to develop a high-quality permanent home for Temple rowing on the Schuylkill River."


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Blog: PhillyConfidential.com

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