The East Falls Development Corporation’s story is one of bringing community stakeholders together to develop a vision for our neighborhood’s future, and then proactively working to make that vision a reality. Based on recommendations made in EFDC’s 1998 original 25-year Riverfront Master Plan and subsequent community surveys and feasibility studies, we have developed a list of capital projects to be implemented as funding is obtained.
Among the projects that have been successfully completed or are nearing completion are: The Parking Lot under the Twin Bridges, the renovation of the historic Bathey House to create the Trolley Car Cafe, the East Falls Gateway Island at Ridge and Kelly, Pedestrian Lighting along the 4100-4200 blocks of River Road, Cut-in Street Parking at the Inn Yard Park, and East Falls’ new River Landing.
Projects in the pipeline include greening of Ridge and Midvale avenues, the installation of new sidewalks, pedestrian lighting, wayfinding signage, and street furnishings from Calumet Street to the City Avenue Bridge Ramps.
Below are just some of the capital projects spearheaded by EFDC and our partners that have helped to move our neighborhood forward.
East Falls is special for many reasons – one of which is our proximity to the Schuylkill River. However, a lack of safe and stable access to the River for residents and visitors alike has been a persistent concern – and we know would serve as an economic engine for our adjacent business corridor. That is why during the summer of 2021, the East Falls Development Corporation will break ground on a new River Landing – an ADA accessible public facility for recreational paddlers to access the Schuylkill River in East Falls. EFDC has worked to develop the concept and design for this new facility through a rigorous community-driven process, with generous support from the William Penn Foundation and Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Comission, and design services from Urban Engineers and construction services from Seravalli, inc. The East Falls River Landing will serve as a long-awaited landing along the Schuylkill River Heritage Water Trail, and provide a spot for recreationists to utilize our neighborhood’s riverfront business district.
EFDC understands that the River Landing provides an important educational opportunity as well. Thanks to the Audubon Discovery Center and the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club, a novel and engaging interpretive sign will be installed overlooking the river landing to deepen visitors’ appreciation and understanding for the Schuylkill River.
The new River Landing will carry on and honor the history of this site as an important access point to the River – from the Lenape people who established a fishing and hunting village along the river to the late 1800’s, when East Falls was a riverfront resort destination with inns and restaurants serving up famous Catfish and Waffle dinners with locally brewed German beers to visitors from Center City who traveled by ferry to a landing. Today, many continue to access the river along the East Falls banks from the popular Schuylkill River Trail.
Parking Lot Under the Twin Bridges
East Falls’ desire to adapt a long vacant, deteriorating park facility along our business district, the Bathey House, for community use resulted in an extensive phased planning process to inform a series of capital improvements to revitalize the East Falls Riverfront Business District. Community-wide charrettes and business surveys indicated that a lack of parking was the single biggest obstacle to developing a successful commercial corridor.
One of the first projects recommended in EFDC’s 1998 original Riverfront Master Plan was the creation of a public parking lot under the Twin Bridges at 4100 Ridge Avenue. The 50-space parking lot was completed in 2007 and included a badly needed stormwater retention basin and extensive landscaping with native plants to provide a green buffer against the park. Because of its strategic location along the Schuylkill River recreational trail system, the Parking Lot quickly became the catalyst for other capital improvements and activities recommended in the 1998 plan. Currently, the Parking Lot hosts a year-round Saturday Farmers Market and seasonal monthly Beer Garden. Plans are underway to develop additional programming to activate the parking lot on a 24/7 basis.
The “Bathey House,” in the heart of East Falls business district, was built in the 1930’s and originally served as a changing facility for the community swimming pool. When new pools were opened at Gustine Lake in 1958, “the Bathey” was abandoned and left to slowly deteriorate. After EFDC successfully completed construction of a 50 space public parking lot under the twin bridges, work began on planning and fundraising to fulfill the community’s long-term interest in rehabilitating “the Bathey” as a community gathering place.
With the support of elected officials and the Fairmount Park Conservancy, EFDC found a development partner, Brinton Housing, to renovate and operate the Bathey as a cafe. EFDC obtained funding from the William Penn Foundation, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to rehabilitate the building, and the Bathey reopened as the Trolley Car Cafe in 2010. As a result of the Cafe’s growing popularity in the neighborhood as well as among recreationalists frequenting the Schuylkill River Trail system, the Cafe was expanded in 2016.
Together with the Twin Bridges Parking Lot, the Trolley Car Cafe has become a trailhead along Philadelphia’s 8 1/2 mile recreational loop and has put East Falls on the State’s Schuylkill River Heritage Area Map.