Traveling on Columbus Boulevard near Oregon Avenue, it’s nearly impossible to miss the SS United States. Once a grand ship that’s 100 feet longer than the Titanic, it’s now rusty and faded.
But an ongoing effort to revitalize the ship is gaining ground. Led by Susan Gibbs(who’s grandfather designed the vessel) a group called the SS United States Conservancy announced on Monday that it entered into a preliminary agreement to support the redevelopment of the ship.
“Negotiations have been underway for some time, and planning will continue with a variety of stakeholders,” the announcement says. It does not reveal the stakeholders, but said the organization will receive support to cover the vessel’s core carrying costs for at least an additional three months. Tom Basile, advisor to the Conservancy, declined to offer specifics on the agreement or the organization’s immediate plans for the ship.
“The project remains at an early and delicate phase, but we wanted to update our supporters about this encouraging development. As you can appreciate, the ship’s potential redevelopment represents a multifaceted engineering, real estate, and curatorial undertaking that will take considerable time to advance,” the statement says.
Any redevelopment of the ship would surely include refurbishing the exterior and building out the 500,000 square feet of internal space, which is basically a shell. A mix of restaurant, hotel and retail space are possible. Any such project would require the ship to be moved from its current location.
Maintaining the largest ocean liner ever built in the United States is expensive: The ship costs $50,000 per month in docking and maintenance costs, said Basile. Earlier this year, the ship was in much dire straits but got a $100,000 donation from cruise industry executive and philanthropist Jim Pollin — and that allowed the project to continue. Pollin also offered a $120,000 grant to match any fundraising.
Basile said that a timeline and more details should come after the new year.
Read the full article at Philadelphia Business Journal.