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Philly's long-proposed park in the sky, Reading Viaduct, gains traction with design study

The design firm Bryan Hanes Studio has begun to embark on a study that could make a long-supported but perpetually stalled Philadelphia project move forward. This study is examining how to design a park on the abandoned railroad tracks up high on the Reading Viaduct in the city's Callowhill neighborhood.

Specifically, the design study concerns the SEPTA-owned portion of the tracks. This is actually just a spur of the viaduct, as the rest is owned by the Reading Company, which has left the rail business and now dabbles in film in California.

The group that has perhaps been the most vocal in support of developing a park is the Callowhill Reading Viaduct Neighborhood Improvement District (CRVNID), which is effusive in its praise of a park. "A park would make the neighborhood more livable," points out John Struble, a cofounder of the Reading Viaduct project with CRVNID. "There is no green space and no park in our neighborhood, (so with this) people can enjoy the outdoors."

This design study is the second phase of examination for the proposed Reading Viaduct park. A year ago, an environmental impact study gave a favorable review to the idea of a park. According to Struble, the design study, which is financed by the William Penn Foundation, is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Struble, who calls himself a "neighborhood advocate" eagerly pinpoints other cities like New York (the High Line in Manhattan's Lower West Side) that have succeeded with similar parks. "This caught on in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Atlanta."

The one shortfall of the Reading Viaduct park proposal is that funding sources have not currently been confirmed. Struble did make sure to add that Poor Richards Charitable Trust might provide some capital. Despite the financial question mark, it looks like Philadelphians might be looking up in the sky for their newest park.

Source: John Struble, CRVNID
Writer: Andy Sharpe
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