New York’s High Line, which was converted from an abandoned elevated freight rail platform into a critically-acclaimed urban park, is inspiring similar projects in other cities.
A hundred miles to the south, Philadelphia is planning to turn its own elevated structure — the Reading Viaduct — into a public park.
The first phase plans to address a small spur owned by local transit authority SEPTA that runs, in a gentle curve, from Callowhill to 13th and Noble Streets, according to a document prepared by landscape architecture firm Studio Bryan Hanes and urban engineers. (There have been more extensive proposals, but baby steps.)
The idea first took root way back in 2003, but a green remediation proposal didn’t publicly materialize — and begin cleanup work — until a few weeks ago. Funding for a schematic study of the spur was secured last year.
It’s estimated that redevelopment of the spur would cost between $3 million and $5 million (redevelopment of the entire viaduct is estimated at $37 million), funded mostly by grants. It’s located in Philadelphia’s Callowhill neighborhood, a once-industrial area now sometimes referred to as the “Loft District.”
The proposed park is less than a quarter-mile in length, but the preliminary plan swaps industrial grit for bursting greenery — at least in the warmer months — and several human-minded structures, from seating to swings. There will be three points of access along the selected span, which fell out of use as a railway decades ago.
Philadelphia’s Center City District, the city’s departments of Commerce and Parks & Recreation, the William Penn Foundation and Poor Richard’s Charitable Trust are all part of the project. It’s scheduled for completion in 2013.