By Ian Bush
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Organizers of the effort to breathe new life into the SS United States say they’ve now raised more than $6 million and they’re hoping for a spike in national interest for saving the ship.
Docked on the Delaware River in South Philly, she’s a real fixer-upper.
“The paint is fading, there are some rust spots,” says SS United States Redevelopment Project managing director Dan McSweeney.
The group still needs to raise more than $18 million more for a museum and upkeep. But McSweeney says the price tag for a complete overhaul is around $250 million.
“In a lot of ways this effort is riding on whether or not we can get a real estate developer to sign on. That’s still a question that needs to be answered. We’re in talks with a couple of developers, and we’re optimistic. But until we have a signed contract, we’re not out of the woods.”
There’s strong interest, he says, to turn the hulking vessel into a hotel, restaurants, and retail — maybe for the casino in Chester, or on the Hudson.
“In New York, we’d also see hotel, restaurants, retail, event space, museum, and potentially a school. We need to create a diversified revenue stream to support the ship for the next 50, 60, 75 years. And luckily, the ship is in such great condition — she was constructed so well — that should not be a problem from a physical point of view. It’s just a matter of finding the right relationship, the right partnership, and the right location to make this thing take off.”
McSweeney says sticker shock, along with some regulatory hurdles, have kept developers from committing. But he’s says he thinks a deal can be done in the next several months.
“The bottom line for us is we want to save this ship. We feel we must save this ship. It’s our duty to do so, and I think by and large the public is coming around to the idea that they should get behind the effort. This is America’s national flagship. There’s no way we can lose the SS United States.”