From redevelopment of public parkland on Venice Island which will include a state of the art performance center to looking at how the historic Manayunk Canal might be restored and transformed into a “watered street”, projects and planning in Manayunk along the Schuylkill River present some exciting future developments.

Manayunk River Access

The limited use of the Schuylkill River in the Manayunk and East Falls areas is a product of limited access to the river. Working with Brown and Keener Assoc., Manayunk explored the opportunities for river access possibilities. The best location identified is as part of the soon to be built Lower Venice Island Park. Plans are available for review.

In the short term a dock was purchased by the Schuylkill Project and secured behind the Manayunk Brew Pub. Rowers, canoeists and kayakers are invited to make use of the dock to visit Manayunk.

Manayunk River Access

Lower Venice Island Park and Performance Center

Eight years of planning and preparation will see success, with the Fall 2009 groundbreaking for the Lower Venice Island Park and Performance Center. The Philadelphia Water Dept. is committed to building a sewage overflow tank on Lower Venice Island. In response, the community secured funding for planning and invited the City Departments to participate in creating a concept that would address the City’s concerns, but would ultimately create a park, recreation, and performance center to be managed by the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Dept.. Designed by Andropogon Assoc., the park will become the center for both culture and activities for the area. The new park will feature State of the Art Water features to demonstrate water retention in an urban environment, recreation facilities for basketball and hockey, space for a dock, outdoor sculpture, a Performance facility with 250 seats and the ability to host performances outside plus over 200 parking spaces. The parking will be accessed from both Cotton and Lock Streets.

Manayunk Canal

What is known as the Manayunk Canal is actually one remaining segment of a canal system that once was over 106 miles long, going from the anthracite region of Schuylkill County down the Schuylkill River into Philadelphia. The Manayunk Canal Project has long been a top priority for Manayunk. It’s location directly behind Main Street businesses creates the perfect opportunity to create store facades along the canal and use it as a watered commercial street.

Starting with planning in 1993 and the first Capital Projects completed in 1997, the Manayunk Canal has seen over $8 million in Capital investments, with another Project pending of $1.2 million. The construction of the bridge at Cotton Street followed by retrofitting the Lock Street bridge, bulkheading along the canal and most recently the completion of landscaping and lighting along the central portion of the canal have moved this project forward. The canal serves as a rallying point for a number of local community and business based groups who work together to secure resources and to help maintain the towpath area that parallels it.

Historically, the canal is significant as one of the first anthracite canals built to bring coal down into the City. It was a key component to Philadelphia’s Industrial Revolution and at the same time shaped the evolution of the outlying communities by being the key transporter of goods up into Phoenixville, Pottstown, Reading and Schuylkill Haven.

The canal was significant also because it was different from most canals. It was comprised of segments of canal, with inlet and outlet locks around difficult sections of river and the slack water created by numerous dams constructed up and down the river. The first lock was constructed in East Falls at the water fall. The last construction was of the Fairmount Dam in 1823, of which the slack water then covered the rocks up past East Falls. The Manayunk Section was competed in 1818.

Today the Manayunk Canal has gradually been reconstructed with projects still waiting to renovate the locks at both ends. Numerous groups continue to work to raise funds to renovate locks #68 (in Shawmont) and #69and #70 at Lock Street in Manayunk.