8/19/2011

Philadelphia's Sky Park


Yes, it is time to revisit the long drawn out situation that is the Reading Viaduct Project.  The Reading Viaduct is a old elevated railway corridor formerly operated by the Reading Railroad, closed in 1984, providing passage for trains in and out of Down Town Philadelphia.  The 4.7-acre, mile long viaduct runs 10 blocks through the Callowhill and Chinatown neighborhoods just north of Center City.  The age old question of what to do with the high-line has plagued the city for over 20 years.  Can it be a catalyst for revitalization or will revitalization happen only when it comes down?  The Reading Viaduct would cost $50 million to demolish verses $36 million to retrofit, according to the Center City District.




Great examples in cities such as Paris (the Promenade Plantee) and New York City ( The High Line) answer this question quite simply, invest in unique public spaces and development will follow.  Cities are now recognizing that parks are good for their economies.  They are no longer just pleasant places to visit, they are a strong incentive for people and businesses to move to surrounding neighborhoods, and when great effort is given to design they become a catalyst for tourism and desirable places to frequent by city residents.





Paris Promenade Plantee

Manhattan's High Line park, built on an elevated railway trestle, has become both a symbol and a catalyst for an explosion of growth in the meatpacking district and the Chelsea neighborhood.  Now cities like Philadelphia are realizing they need more well planned public spaces and parks to support and encourage healthy economic growth in all sectors of its economy.  The High Line has taught that renovating and old railway can be the spark that helps improve a neighborhood and attract development.



NYC High Line

The High Line's first and second sections cost $153 million, but have generated an estimated $2 billion in new developments.  In the five years since construction started on the High Line, 29 new projects have been built or are underway in the neighborhood, according to the New York City Department of City Planning.  More than 2,500 new residential units, 1,000 hotel rooms and over 500,000 square feet of office and art gallery space have gone up.  The area around the park has also become a draw for start-ups and creative companies.

The City of Philadelphia and its neighborhoods can benefit significantly from a project of this magnitude. Although small in comparison to its peers, its economic impact and added value to surrounding neighborhoods including northern fringes of Center City would be huge, encouraging residential and commercial development, infrastructure improvements to city connectors, and a pleasant escape just minutes away from thousands of under-served city residents.

Support the project by friending the Reading Viaduct Park on Facebook.