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Urban to Lead Transformation of the Reading Viaduct in Philadelphia
Publication Date
June 1st 2012

Urban Engineers (Urban) has been selected by Center City District (CCD) for the reclamation of the former Reading Railroad Viaduct in Center City Philadelphia, PA. In collaboration with landscape architect Studio|Bryan Hanes, Urban will transform the abandoned railroad viaduct into a unique, elevated linear park to be used by residents and visitors to the Greater Philadelphia Area.


The viaduct, which opened in 1893, was built by the Philadelphia and Reading Terminal Railroad as an approach to the new Reading Terminal. Last used in 1984, the Reading Viaduct heads north from Reading Terminal and forks, with a quarter-mile-long, 26,000-SF spur heading northwest to the old mainline to Reading, Pennsylvania. Its steel structures, elevated filled areas and arched masonry bridges had become blighted over the years, but the viaduct’s spectacular views of the City remain. CCD is focused on repurposing this spur portion into a green civic space, “maintaining the industrial authenticity of its origins, while still meeting modern safety, code, and access requirements.”


Urban first became involved with the Reading Viaduct in 2003, performing an environmental and feasibility study for the City of Philadelphia Commerce Department. In 2010, CCD commissioned Urban, with a project team of Cecil Baker + Partners and Friends of the High Line, New York City, to evaluate options for the viaduct’s future development. In 2011, with generous contributions from the William Penn Foundation and Poor Richard’s Charitable Trust, the Center City District commissioned a concept design study, which was conducted by Urban and Studio| Bryan Hanes. The study, which focused on the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA)-owned spur only, was prepared in partnership with community stakeholders and the City’s Commerce Department and Department of Parks & Recreation.


In early March 2012, Studio| Bryan Hanes and Urban, incorporating the preferences cited by community participants, presented renderings of a new public park on the SEPTA spur. The design called for entrances to the Viaduct on North Broad Street at Noble Street, at 13th and Noble, and on Callowhill between 11th and 12th. The response from the community was enthusiastic, resulting in the selection of a preferred schematic design alternative.


“We envision the Reading Viaduct to become the next great public space for Philadelphia,” said Project Manager Angelo Waters, PE, LEED® AP. “The feedback from the community and project stakeholders on the design has been overwhelmingly positive. We are thrilled to move forward with the final design of this new, signature space for the City.”