Possible new life for SS United States as deal signed with property giant RXR Realty

The real estate giant RXR Realty and the SS United States Conservancy have signed an agreement to explore options for the SS United States’ revitalisation.

The former ocean liner is currently berthed in cold lay-up in Philadelphia on the Delaware River, where she has been since 1996. After leaving service as an ocean liner in 1970, her fittings were sold at auction, and hazardous wastes, including asbestos panels throughout the ship, were removed.

SS United States in her prime.

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The ship, stripped to her bare metal, is now owned by the SS United States Conservancy, which pays for her berthing fees and advocates for a restoration of the vessel as a floating hotel akin to SS Rotterdam in the city of the same name, or QE2 Dubai in the UAE.

Over the next several months, RXR Realty plans to determine the viability of a SS United States’ redevelopment project and will explore a range of potential locations for the historic vessel, according to a press release.

The group manages 69 commercial real estate properties and investments, with an aggregate gross asset value of approximately US $18.1 billion, comprising approximately 24.6 million square feet of commercial properties, including a residential portfolio of approximately 2,600 units under operation or development.

“The SS United States is one of America’s great vessels and an icon of American engineering and design. Given our history of repurposing and updating some of this country’s most historic structures, we are now working with the SS United States Conservancy to explore what options might exist for the ship, going forward,” the group said in a statement.

SS United States has been in cold lay-up in Philadelphia since 1996.

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In connection with these plans, RXR will be paying a substantial portion of the ship’s berthing costs and making other investments during this option period, the statement added. It will also assemble a team to assess the vessel’s interior spaces and explore concepts for the ship’s revitalization.

“We are currently at the very beginning of this process – a process that will require substantial work on all sides,” the statement from RXR added. “At the end of this period, we will have a better sense as to whether we have a viable plan and, if so, the specifics of that plan and in which waterfront community it might be actualized.”

The developments will come as good news for fans of the SS United States, which at the time of her launch in 1951 was an engineering marvel, the largest ocean liner constructed entirely in the United States and the fastest ocean liner in history to cross the Atlantic in either direction.

She retained the prestigious Blue Riband for the highest average speed since her maiden voyage in 1952, achieving top speeds of 38-knots during some points on her crossings.

However, previous plans to restore the ship to her former glory have been announced and then abandoned, most recently by  Crystal Cruises (part of Genting Cruise Lines) in 2016.

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