Viaduct Talk

Photo: Peter Woodall

A pair of clues to the renewed push to turn the City Branch (owned by SEPTA) and the North Branch (owned by the Reading Co.) into a sky-park (and the underground section of the City Branch into a subterranean pleasure ground):

Paul Levy’s conversion. For years, students in Levy’s University of Pennsylvania course on urban redevelopment have been studying the potential adaptation of the Viaduct into a park. “They always positioned it as a connector, and I always responded, ‘a connector to what?’,” he explained to me. Levy never bought it, and therefore never really thought seriously about the project. After going to New York to walk the High Line, Levy’s position on the Viaduct being a connector didn’t change. Instead, the High Line enabled him to see the Viaduct’s potential as a neighborhood center, a park for the Callowhill warehouse district, and one that would help redefine the place.

Center City District’s strategy. “There are things we just can’t get done,” because they’re impossible to fund or there isn’t the market-basis or the political will, says Levy. The CCD stays away from those projects. “On the other hand, we pursue projects where we can see a distinct path to the end result.” It appears that the Viaduct now belongs in the latter category.

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.



1 Comment


  1. City Branch is Septa owned. The elevated 9th Street Branch (which does head in a North-South direction) is owned by Reading International, corporate decedent of the Reading Company.

    Visit http://www.viaductgreene.org for the connections!

    “The details are details. They make the product. The connections, the connections, the connections. It will in the end be these details that give the product its life.”- Charles Eames.

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