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-editor of the Hidden City Daily and author of three books of non-fiction, including the forthcoming Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (Temple Press) and a novel, Lion and Leopard (The Head and the Hand Press). He is 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
Willis Hale's Bold Beginnings On The Delaware River

Willis Hale’s Bold Beginnings On The Delaware River

October 20, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

The work of Willis G. Hale, the mind behind the much-adored Divine Lorraine and the frankly fussy Hale Building, is enjoying a renaissance as of late. The Victorian architect's penchant for brazen facades can be traced back to a warehouse on the Delaware River, demolished in the 1960s to make way for I-95. The Shadow has the backstory > more

On 40th Street, New Life For A Long-Hidden Furness

On 40th Street, New Life For A Long-Hidden Furness

October 18, 2017  |  Vantage

What's it take to restore this early Furness? Hidden City talks to developer Tom Lussenhop about the tear-down disaster ongoing across the city and his plans for the former West Philadelphia Institute > more

Praise And Protest At Historical Commission Meeting

Praise And Protest At Historical Commission Meeting

October 17, 2017  |  News

Applause and anger filled the room at the monthly Historical Commission meeting on Friday. GroJLart has the details > more

The True Center Of The City Revealed

The True Center Of The City Revealed

October 13, 2017  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

City Hall may be the "heart" of Philadelphia, but an unassuming corner in North Philly is the true center of the city. Harry K. explores the evolution of Penn's greene country towne and how Philadelphia has a history of being the center of attention > more

LIGHTS! MUSIC! ACTION! Historic Lansdowne Theater Poised For A Comeback

LIGHTS! MUSIC! ACTION! Historic Lansdowne Theater Poised For A Comeback

October 11, 2017  |  Vantage

After 30 years' slumber, Lansdowne's sumptuous Art Deco movie palace is ready to wake up, and rouse Main Street too, with music and community spirit. Ben Leech has the story > more

Wish You Were Here: Postcards From The Past Recall

Wish You Were Here: Postcards From The Past Recall “Real Philadelphia”

October 10, 2017  |  Vantage

The Athenaeum of Philadelphia's new exhibition, "Real Philadelphia: Selections from the Robert M. Skaler Postcard Collection," puts elusive images of working class city life in the limelight. Contributor Karen Chernick has the review > more