Shovel Ready?

Photo: Peter Woodall

Martin Filler, writing on the New York Review blog, says that with the completion of phase 2, “the High Line feels wholly consistent and yet never repetitive throughout its entire mile-and-a-half length.” This has something to do, he says, with having both a holistic vision and the desire to variegate experience.

Proper sequencing is therefore critical, a point already being revealed in the fledgling Reading Viaduct project. In this age of shrunken finances, how to initiate (and implement) an ambitious vision? Taking the Race Street Pier as a cue, city officials want to think small first, raise excitement, and, in time, achieve broad transformation.

Don’t we often wish this city would seize the moment?

A phase one would begin design for a portion of the City Branch of the elevated railway–owned by SEPTA and therefore simpler to acquire–the sideways “r” that runs from Broad and Noble to Callowhill Street. Indications are that process is underway.

Photo: Peter Woodalll

The strategy makes perfect sense. As one project observer noted to me, this is the only part of the proposed 3 mile park to which the city has–or ever will have–certain access. And building a park in that section will have immediate impact on a the Callowhill neighborhood, a place on the cusp.

But starting here will have consequences. Primary of these is that by developing here first it precludes using this most accessible section for staging and construction equipment, and according to Paul VanMeter of Viaduct Greene, it will raise the overall cost of the project considerably. VanMeter would like to see an international design competition first, anyway, and a holistic vision emerge before investing in finished design for a particular section. And after that? “Construction-wise, I think I’d start at Broad Street and go West,” says VanMeter. “Build something splashy on the West side of Broad St at the Inquirer Building and behind the Rodin.”

About the author

Nathaniel Popkin is co-founder of the Hidden City Daily and author of three books of non-fiction, including Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (with Peter Woodall and Joseph E.B. Elliott) and two novels, Everything is Borrowed and Lion and Leopard. He is co-editor of Who Will Speak for America, an anthology forthcoming in June 2018, and the senior writer of the film documentary "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment."



1 Comment


  1. also from the outstanding and inspiring Martin Filler piece…

    “David and Hammond’s High Line is above all an inspiring case study of how major city planning initiatives can be realized without either the authoritarian methods of Robert Moses—New York’s mid-twentieth-century public works czar, whose pursuit of vast infrastructure and urban clearance projects often ran roughshod over democratic procedures and working-class neighborhoods—or today’s characteristic commercially driven redevelopment schemes.”

    seems the Philadelphia of today has a Robert Moses of sorts:
    http://www.citypaper.net/news/2011-10-06-paul-levy-center-city-district-philadelphia.html

    it would be a shame to see ‘politics,’ unravel good and welcome momentum.

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Docomomo PHL To Host

Docomomo PHL To Host “Wake” For Modernist Store

June 18, 2018  |  News

Modernist architecture advocacy group will hold a demonstration to protest Philadelphia's historic preservation crisis. Michael Bixler has the details > more

The Rise, Fall, & Revival Of North Broad's Opera Palace

The Rise, Fall, & Revival Of North Broad’s Opera Palace

June 14, 2018  |  Vantage

Rob McClung takes us on a journey through the turbulent history and present reawakening of the mighty Metropolitan Opera House at Broad and Poplar > more

A Brief History Of Race & Contested Space In West Philly

A Brief History Of Race & Contested Space In West Philly

June 11, 2018  |  Vantage

Mariam Williams dives deep into the social evolution of Malcolm X Park to unearth the history of race and economics within a neighborhood space > more

Italian Market Project Puts Fresh Eyes On A Philly Staple

Italian Market Project Puts Fresh Eyes On A Philly Staple

June 8, 2018  |  Vantage

The Italian Market Project mixes a walking tour with Philly-accented theater in a fun, immersive experience. Mickey Herr has the details > more

Taking History To The Streets With Preservation Activism

Taking History To The Streets With Preservation Activism

June 6, 2018  |  Soapbox

Ali Roseberry-Polier discusses civil rights history, selective public memory, and why she created an historical marker for a Black female activist who challenged segregation in 19th century Philadelphia > more

A Buzzy New Beginning For Poth Brewing Company

A Buzzy New Beginning For Poth Brewing Company

June 4, 2018  |  Last Light

Before renovations begin, Michael Bixler takes us inside the remains of Poth Brewing Company with this photo essay > more