By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Architecture
Mimicking New York's success with its High Line park, Philadelphia is progressing to redevelop an abandoned viaduct into an elevated urban greenway.
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.
Apr 2, 2012
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By developing parks on urban rail rights of way these urban areas are cutting themselves off from any possible future in an improved rail system. As California recently found, it will be impossibly expensive for them to bring a HSR terminal into the heart of LA because rail rights of way have been retasked for other uses. They are now faced with building a rail terminal 100 miles outside of LA for the HSR train to Las Vegas. http://travel.usatoday.com/destinations/lasvegas/story/2012-03-31/Train-to-nowhere-High-speed-Vegas-line-stirs-controversy/53876352/1 It kind of defeats the purpose of HSR for intercity travel if you have to drive a car 100 miles to get to the train.
I applaud the creation of these urban rails to trails projects. The challenges of these urban projects on elevated lines are much greater than the simple surface rails to trails project: Those overpasses simply weren't designed with landscaping in mind. (But they do have plenty of load bearing capacity. . .) I've made extensive use of the surface rails to trail project a couple blocks from my house, and it's good to hear big city folk are getting similar opportunities.