[E]merging Visions

Photo: Peter Woodall

Paul VanMeter, of Viaduct Greene, e-mails to say there is now agreement between his organization and the Reading Viaduct Project on a shared vision for the a three mile long park on the abandoned Reading and Philadelphia railroad. This in not insignificant. Sarah McEneany and John Struble, of RVP, are the visionaries who have been advocating for a High Line-style park on the viaduct since 2001. (As Martin Filler points out in a review of the second Phase of the High Line, that project had only emerged a couple of years earlier and was essentially ignored until late 2001.)

A year or so ago, VanMeter, with experience working on the High Line, and partner Liz Maile formed ViaductGreene to help reenergize the idea, which had never caught on politically. VanMeter and Maille came on the scene with a broader vision–to connect the viaduct to the rest of the City Branch, the submerged train bed that runs along Pennsylvania Avenue behind the Rodin Museum.

Now, with the Nutter administration and the Center City District in active negotiations with SEPTA and the Reading Company for access to the site, the agreement means the opportunity to work at greater scale, at a park that would run “across multiple neighborhoods and create new connections to and from the Avenue of the Arts, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Fairmount Park, forming the spine of a new, animated cultural campus.”

Photo: Peter Woodall

Besides “Continuous and Connective,” the other values to guide development of the park: “Green and Wild,” “Accommodating, Accessible, and Expressive,” “Historic,” “Safe,” “Fiscally Sustainable,” Environmentally Responsible.”

Tomorrow, in Possible City: thinking through next steps.

About the author

Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin’s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press). He is also the author of Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and The Possible City (Camino Books). He is senior writer and script editor of the Emmy-winning documentary series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine. Popkin's literary criticism appears in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Kenyon Review, and The Millions. He is writer-in-residence of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.



4 Comments


  1. Isn’t there a possibility of using the City Branch Line for an eventual subway along the Parkway? And wouldn’t that be a much, much better use?

    A potential plan is outline on the “Crossing the Line” blog is here (his assumptions of cost are too low, but still, you get the idea):

    http://philadelphia2050.blogspot.com/2011/09/costing-city-branch-line.html

  2. During meetings with SEPTA and the City, it’s been confirmed that the chances of the City footing the bill for a light rail along the City Branch are negligible to none. It’s simply too great of an investment for too short of a distance. This right-of-way, however, could be easily developed into a park, with separate pedestrian and bike lanes — imagine walking or biking through Callowhill and Chinatown North to Poplar West, Spring Garden, Logan Square, Fairmount, and Brewerytown, to the North Avenue of the Arts, CCP, the Barnes, Rodin, Philadelphia Art Museum, and Fairmount Park, all without crossing a street. Check out our Design Philadelphia events to learn more: on October 13th, VIADUCTgreene and Reading Viaduct Project will co-lead a discussion on the opportunities presented by this project, including the site’s rich historical, horticultural, and civic assets. On October 15th, we’ll co-lead a tour of the City Branch with local historian, Harry Kyriakodis. See http://www.designphiladelphia.org for more information.

  3. I did not realize this project had an under-track component to it. It reminds of a project I recently visited in Zurich Switzerland, I job very well done. Just wanted to pass this along as a potential idea as to how to engage the space below.

    Its called Im Viadukt, click below for pictures

    http://www.google.com/search?q=IM+Viadukt+Fotos&hl=en&safe=off&client=safari&sa=X&rls=en&biw=1260&bih=668&prmd=imvns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&ei=8M6oTq6gD-W90AHZhfWcDg&ved=0CB0QsAQ

  4. NickFromGermantown

    What is there to negotiate? The Reading Company owes the city tax money for the line. Beyond that, they have been a terrible steward. That line looks so decrepit. It really hurts the neighborhood in its current state.

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