Viaduct Phase I: Design Visions For The SEPTA Spur


Image: Bryan Hanes

Callowhill neighbors and others have been reviewing design renderings of the first phase of the Reading Viaduct park. For a PDF of the renderings, click HERE. Last year, the Center City District hired landscape architect Bryan Hanes, designer of Logan Circle, Penn Treaty Park, Clark Park, and the new Sister Cities Plaza, to produce designs for a park on the SEPTA spur, the stub railroad that runs east at grade from 13th and Noble Streets into the reading-owned Ninth Street branch (and west as the submerged City Branch).

“We have been working to maintain the industrial character of the space while finding the appropriate balance between program elements and the simple pleasure of being up off the ground in an awe-inspiring place,” noted Hanes.

The Reading Company is presently using (and claiming ownership of) the SEPTA spur for access as it removes the rails and foliage along the Ninth Street branch of the Viaduct.

Negotiations continue between city officials and the Reading Company for control of the Viaduct.

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. Hopefully this is just the beginning.

  2. Bryan Hanes is also the designer of the Cynwyd Heritage Trail, which has turned a rough abandoned rail line into a curvy country trail for walkers, bikers, dogs, etc, complete with creek.
    It’s great!

  3. It just seems like kind of a wasted effort. I mean, if you want to walk from nowhere to nowhere and look out at nothing, it’s not like there’s a shortage of places where you can do that already.

    Even if the full project got implemented, it would still be pretty useless. And it’s not like developers are going to suddenly be interested in the neighborhood just because of this.

    It’s sad, because the railroad right-of-way used to run from the Reading Terminal to the Art Museum, which would have forged a link to Fairmount Park from East Market Street. But that’s not happening, obviously.

    • Pablo O'Higgins

      Well said, a park to nowhere. Let’s ensure that no taxpayer dollars are spent on this boondoggle.

      • It’s funny that the PowerPoint linked gets uber-specific but it doesn’t mention the cost: about $35 million, says the Inky. It would be about $80 million for the full project, which would include (and I can’t believe anyone suggested this without laughing) the conversion of an underground former rail tunnel into a “park.”

        Those look like nice people in the renderings, but where on earth are they coming from, and where are they going? Why on earth would people outside the neighborhood walk to North Broad Street, just to walk around again and then be dumped out at a random corner on Callowhill Street? But okay, let’s suppose this did, by some unbelievable fluke, spark new interest in the neighborhood. Would people go through the above hassle, just for the privilege of looking at the balconies behind some new condos?

        There are a lot of better uses for $80 million in this city: about eighty million, in fact.

  4. What about homeless people? They will love this park, I am afraid.

    • The homeless are gone. This is why the Ridge Center was closed, in anticipation of the park happening. To make sure there was no chance they would start to populate the viaduct. The same way the PPD posted police vehicles at all corners of Rittenhouse Square when the Occupy folks were being driven out. The rich don’t want the riff raff coming in to lower their property values. That’s progress!

  5. I’m guessing most of the people commenting don’t live in the neighborhood at all and probably don’t know much about it. The area surrounding the viaduct is already in the process of a major revitalization/ gentrification whatever you want to call it. You’d have to be a fool to believe that this project would not spur more and better development.


  1. Behold: The First Official Renderings Of The Proposed Reading Viaduct Elevated Park, Philadelphia’s Planned Park In The Sky :: Center City Local
  2. Think Neighborhood Park | Hidden City Philadelphia

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