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

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. 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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