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.