Earlier this year, AN kicked off its video series with a tour of Philly's Reading Viaduct, an abandoned elevated rail line that advocates hope to transform into a linear park. The project has been talked about for years, but the pace has really picked up over the last few months. When we visited the site, president of the nonprofit Friends of the Rail Park, Leah Murphy, and the park's designer, Bryan Hanes, said they hoped to break ground on the first phase of the project—the spur—this year. Now, it looks like that is going to happen—possibly as soon as this summer. In March, the Knight and William Penn foundations announced they would provide $11 million for five shovel-ready park projects around the city, including $1 million for the Reading Viaduct. Since then, the chances of the project getting underway have solidified even further. PlanPhilly recently reported that Councilman Mark Squilla introduced legislation that would allow the city to purchase the 0.8-acre spur from Philly's transit agency, SEPTA, which currently owns the site. If SEPTA votes to hand over the property, the project will pass a major logistical hurdle. As for funding, Friends of the Rail Park told PlanPhilly that the group has already raised about 65 percent of the $9 million required for the spur. It is also pursuing a $3.5 million grant from Pennsylvania's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. For more on the history of the Reading Viaduct, and its possible future as an elevated park, check out our video below. https://vimeo.com/120168095
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Philly is one step closer to creating an elevated park on an abandoned rail viaduct. Studio Bryan Hanes and Urban Engineers, two firms collaborating on the design of the SEPTA Spur phase of Philadelphia's Reading Viaduct, have released new images of the reclaimed railway that bring the proposal into focus. The Spur represents a significant step in realizing the vision of the elevated park with a primary entrance from Broad Street that rises from grade to the elevated rail line. The first phase stops just shy, however, of the wider, more programmable space on the main Viaduct. As a development teaser, the Spur will serve as a crucial component of fundraising efforts by park advocates, Viaduct Greene and the Reading Viaduct Project, and the design's reception could represent a make-or-break opportunity to complete the larger project. According to Bryan Hanes in an article from HiddenCity, "We have been working to maintain the industrial character of the space while finding the appropriate balance between program elements and the simple pleasure of being up off the ground in an awe-inspiring place." Funded primarily by the William Penn Foundation and the Poor Richards Charitable Trust, the Spur will make up just 9% of the total area of the proposed park. Although the dream of an elevated park so far remains a dream, construction of the SEPTA Spur would represent a huge accomplishment for the city of Philadelphia. As one local resident put it, "let's just do it!"