Once a stretch of elevated rail, sprawling across one of America’s oldest cities, the Reading Viaduct was left vacant and was overtaken by foliage. The railway, which has not been in service since 1984, aged out of its use like many others across the country. The people of Philadelphia and the Center City District took notice of today's landscape and Mother Nature’s hint, and are now providing this pathway the natural life it deserves.
Welcome, The Rail Park.
When New York City implemented its popular High Line public park in Manhattan, it made sense for Philadelphia to follow in the city’s green thumb prints by rejuvenating its unused 50 block path that stretches from 31st and Girard Streets to 9th and Fairmount Streets. After months of fundraising and campaigning by tireless, dedicated groups such as the Friends of the Rail Park and many others, the necessary funds were allocated and the ground was ceremonially broken on October 31, commencing Phase I of the Rail Park along the Reading Viaduct.
Renovation of the desolate area has already sparked revitalization in the neighborhood. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, a development team plans to purchase the lot at 1006 Buttonwood Street for studios and offices. And it’s easy to make the connection between the Rail Park’s groundbreaking and the reopening of a notorious Philadelphia eye-sore, the Divine Lorraine, which recently relit its iconic letters. It’s a promising effort that should create a tree-lined connection to several sections of the city, and spur further economic and environmental growth throughout Philadelphia. It’s already getting praise from residents and politicians invested in the city.
“The Rail Park will be a beautiful way to walk around Philadelphia and hang out in the sun,” said Stacey Sebastian, a graduate student at Temple University who near where the park broke ground.
“This transformational project will create a new community space and trail in a neighborhood completely lacking public amenities and green space,” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said in a press release. “Additionally, this investment will support the expansion of both the Callowhill and Chinatown neighborhoods and promote growth in an underdeveloped area near Center City.”
“The City of Philadelphia is proud to have supported this outstanding project and our Parks & Recreation and Streets Departments are committed to managing and maintaining the park for the benefit of all Philadelphians who will enjoy the many amenities of the new elevated park, which also will provide great views of our beautiful city,” added Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.
Urban was a catalyst for the development of the park. The firm conducted the initial concept design study in 2011 to get the project underway, and later presented multiple design options for the park. Furthering the visualization, renderings with preferences cited by stakeholders and community members were produced. Urban is thrilled to be a part of such a community-based project that will surely improve the lives and economic development for many in Philadelphia.
Read more about the architecture and engineering behind this project in an article by ASCE’s Civil Engineering magazine.