Long Awaited Construction Of Rail Park Begins Today

 

With $3.5 million in capital funds from the State of Pennsylvania, today the Center City District will begin construction on the much-anticipated Reading Viaduct Rail Park. An official groundbreaking ceremony to mark the first phase of the $10.3 million project will be held at 2:30PM at 13th and Noble Streets. Governor Tom Wolf, Mayor Jim Kenney, Sarah McEneaney, president of Friends of the Rail Park, and Paul R. Levy, president and CEO of Center City District will host the event.

Construction of phase one, designed by Studio Bryan Hanes, is slated for completion in early 2018. When improvements are finished this 25,000-square-foot section of the elevated park will feature a walking path, seating, gathering space, landscaping, and lighting. Spanning a quarter-mile, the park will extend from Broad Street across 13th and 12th Streets to Callowhill Street. If the vision for the Rail Park created by Friends of the Rail Park comes into full fruition, the park will eventually extend three miles above and below ground from East Poplar to Brewerytown and include space for retail and bike paths.

Excitement over the project has increased substantially in the past two years as this first phase has received focused political and financial support. It is already a popular place to stroll through the ruins of the train trestle. Friends of the Rail Park president Sarah McEneaney, the renowned artist who helped to launch the effort in the 1990s, has been enchanted by the elevated line since trains stopped running on it in 1984. She sees the reuse of the abandoned rail line as a natural, progressive transition for the public utility. “Cities are constantly changing and evolving. What was once a train corridor, then a feral garden will next be a fabulous public park for Philadelphians and visitors to experience,” says McEneaney. “I believe getting the first phase completed and people using and enjoying it will do so much to move the rest of the project forward. Once the whole three miles are complete it will serve bicycle and pedestrian commuters through many neighborhoods and be a venue for all sorts of cultural, educational, and social programming.”

SEPTA is leasing the elevated railway to the Center City District during the park’s construction. Once the project is complete the City of Philadelphia will take ownership of the completed park and maintain it through a partnership with Department of Parks & Recreation, Streets Department, the Friends of the Rail Park, and the CCD.

About the author

Michael Bixler is a writer, photographer, and managing editor of Hidden City Daily. He is a former arts and entertainment reporter with Mountain Xpress weekly in Asheville, North Carolina and a native of South Carolina. Bixler has a keen interest in adaptive reuse, underappreciated architecture, contemporary literature and art, and forward-thinking dialogue about people and place. Follow him on Instagram



5 Comments


  1. I’m all for the elevated portion of this project but some people are insane for thinking an underground park is a good idea and a better use than mass transit in the city branch. It’s a no brainer to utilize the city branch for bus / rail to link Broad St. with the parkway, Fairmount and then eventually terminate at 31st and Girard in Brewerytown where the trolley already is.

  2. The war over the reuse of the trench and tunnel is over people ! We friends of the Rail Park have basically won the argument! Transit won’t be there unless your talking about bikes and shoes. Once people get to enjoy the first phase of the park it’s only a matter of time and money for the viaduct and trench to follow. It’s gonna be beautiful !
    See you at the Rail Park

    • Just because you won, doesn’t mean you’re right. A certain Edmund Bacon comes to mind when it comes to this topic.

      Spring Garden/Fairmount/Vine Street are perfect east/west thoroughfares to improve for bikes/pedestrians. Instead of blindly focusing on flipping any available space for a park, there is a community that should be carefully planned around the Viaduct.

      Also, all parks aren’t created equal, the Viaduct could be anywhere from poorly designed to magnificent. I don’t see the urgency in increasing territory when there is no guarantee this group can achieve the latter.

    • “Once the whole three miles are complete it will serve bicycle and pedestrian commuters through many neighborhoods and be a venue for all sorts of cultural, educational, and social programming.”

      Yes, because we’re going to have so much cultural & educational programming on an elevated park…What? The High Line in NYC, which these renderings look like a replica of, has been a catalyst for neighborhood growth and urban development. Treat it as such.

Leave a Reply

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

Recent Posts
Nation's Largest AIDS Wellness Center On The Verge Of Closing

Nation’s Largest AIDS Wellness Center On The Verge Of Closing

April 23, 2019  |  News

Siloam Wellness Center has been used as a model for HIV/AIDS wellness centers across the country since it opened 24 years ago. But its future, and its funding, hangs in the balance. Ali Roseberry-Polier has the story > more

As Philadelphia Celebrates Its Growth, A Call To Be More Inclusive

As Philadelphia Celebrates Its Growth, A Call To Be More Inclusive

April 19, 2019  |  News

Last week Pew Charitable Trusts released its 2019 State of the City report. The study shows a stark divide between Philadelphia's economic growth and disparity. Kimberly Haas has the details > more

Historic Designation Committee To Consider West Philly District, Institute For Colored Youth, And Churches

Historic Designation Committee To Consider West Philly District, Institute For Colored Youth, And Churches

April 16, 2019  |  News

Starr Herr-Cardillo has the details on local register nominations up for consideration at the April meeting of the Philadelphia Historical Commission's Designation Committee > more

For Callowhill Neighborhood, Whose BIDing Will Be Done?

For Callowhill Neighborhood, Whose BIDing Will Be Done?

April 12, 2019  |  News

Longtime Callowhill residents and real estate developers clash over the creation of a Business Improvement District as the neighborhood begins to transition. Kimberly Haas has the story > more

Public Space Rises From The Stacks At Parkway Central

Public Space Rises From The Stacks At Parkway Central

April 10, 2019  |  News

Michael Bixler has this preview of the three new public spaces opening on Friday at the Free Library of Philadelphia's Parkway Central branch > more

Photo Collection Project Takes A Walk In Ed Bacon's Shoes

Photo Collection Project Takes A Walk In Ed Bacon’s Shoes

April 5, 2019  |  News

Fisher Fine Arts Library at Penn is digitalizing a treasure trove of slides from the personal collection of Philly city planner extraordinaire Edmund Bacon and they need your help. Michael Bixler has the details > more