Toast the End of Summer With a Fiesta at the Viaduct Rail Park

Patrons gather at the 2016 PHS pop-up garden at 10th and Hamilton Streets in Philadelphia’s Callowhill District. PHS built the pop-up garden to bring awareness to the planned Rail Park. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

We all know that Labor Day weekend is the unofficial end of the season. But the second-last weekend of summer is still deep in day-drinking, fun-having balmy weather mode, as far as we’re concerned.

And Ela chef-owner Jason Chichonski is here to help you squeeze that last bit of sunny, carefree fun out of August with his End of Summer Fiesta at the Viaduct Rail Park on Sunday, August 27th.

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Jawdropper of the Week: Industrial Chic in Callowhill

429 N. 13th St. #4A, Philadlephia, Pa. 19123 | TREND images via BHHS Fox & Roach

429 N. 13th St. #4A, Philadelphia, Pa. 19123 | TREND photos by Drew Callaghan Photography via BHHS Fox & Roach

You know those glamorous lofts you see in the movies? The ones with huge windows and amazing views of the city, exposed brick walls everywhere giving it that industrial-chic look, and occupants who live on a writer’s salary yet can afford a super-stylish apartment that has us asking, “Does this really exist in real life? ”

The answer is yes, and you’ll find it on the 4th floor of a 110-year-old converted garment factory in the heart of the Callowhill Loft District. Located right across the street from the Reading Railroad viaduct and park-to-be, this condo has all the elements needed to make that movie dream a reality.

Designed by an artist and once used as a photography studio, this spacious unit formed out of what were once two separate apartments is an ideal flexible live/work space. One of the best features of this loft condo unit is its totally open plan. The moment you step into the entry hall, you can take in the entire unit in one glance. Read more »

WATCH: Empty Reading Viaduct Lot Transforms Into Beer Garden

Patrons gather at the 2016 PHS pop-up garden at 10th and Hamilton Streets in Philadelphia's Callowhill District. PHS built the pop-up garden to bring awareness to the planned Rail Park. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

Patrons gather at the 2016 PHS Pop Up Garden at 10th and Hamilton Streets in Philadelphia’s Callowhill District. PHS built the pop-up to bring awareness to the planned Rail Park. | Image by Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY

A group of Philadelphians has been working for years to turn portions of the Reading Viaduct, an unused, elevated rail line that cuts across the northern part of Center City, into an elevated park.

You’ve no doubt heard about this, probably in comparison to New York City’s High Line. In the past few years, Philly’s elevated park advocates have made some real progress. Last May, the city started the process of buying a portion of the rail line from SEPTA. Last June, City Councilman Mark Squilla announced that the city was giving $1 million to help develop the park. Advocates hope it will be green and accessible, and make it easier to get around the city.

And now there’s a beer garden right next door. Lindsay Lazarski at Keystone Crossroads published a video story that tracks the transformation of a former parking lot into the new PHS Pop Up Garden at the Viaduct Rail Park. Read more »

Reading Viaduct Park Would Make Getting Around Philly Easier

Before and after.

The Reading Viaduct today — and tomorrow? | Photo by Malcolm Burnley and rendering via Friends of the Rail Park

Last September, after visiting the new Whitney Museum in New York, I climbed up to the High Line for what I thought would be a breezy stroll with gorgeous views of the Meatpacking District. How wrong I was. Between the people jockeying for avant-garde lawn chairs and the gaggles of camera-toting tourists, the foot traffic crawled along at an infuriating pace.

The park was designed for 600,000 visitors per year; last year, there were 6 million. Though the High Line remains an international beacon of innovative green space (it has also invited lots of deep-pocketed developers into the once-sleepy Chelsea neighborhood), it’s not a functional piece of the urban grid. You can lick all the $8 popsicles you want there, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s a good way of getting around the Lower West Side.

All of which made me believe that the rallying cry in Philly to create a High Line-esque park out of the rusting Reading Viaduct and adjacent railroad tunnels — together, they form a continuous stretch of land going from Chinatown to Fairmount Park — was mostly about beautification, and not at all about improving mobility. That’s why I left it off Philly Mag’s recent list of “20 Smart Transportation Ideas Reshaping Philadelphia (and Your Life).” Was it one of the 20 coolest urbanism projects around? Surely. But was it going to change the way we moved around the city? Meh.

Someone begged to differ. “Think about being in West Poplar or NoLibs, riding a few blocks to Fairmount and 9th, taking an elevator up onto the Viaduct and then riding all the way to PMA or Boathouse Row, and [you] only have to stop for cars when crossing Kelly Drive,” Michael Garden wrote to me on Facebook. Alright, that got my attention. Read more »

High Line Lessons for Reading Viaduct Park


For anyone living under a rock for the past six or seven years, there’s something called the High Line in New York City. It’s “among the most influential public works projects of the past half-century, altering our thinking about public space and urban revival,” as one outlet calmly put it. Originally a 1930s elevated railway line for industrial supply routesthen, once defunct, an enormous source of blight on the neighborhood of West Chelsea in Manhattan, it’s now an international marvel of urban green space. Read more »

SEPTA Expected to Lease Reading Viaduct Spur to Rail Park Project, Sale to City to Follow

Image courtesy of Bryan Hanes | Studio Bryan Hanes

Conceptual design for the Rail Park | Image courtesy of Bryan Hanes/Studio Bryan Hanes

Can you believe this is really happening? Unlike other potentially transformative neighborhood projects that either get stuck in some funding lurch, bureaucratic nonsense hole, or never even make it past the just-a-dream stage, the Friends of the Rail Park seem to have really pulled it off.

At least, all signs are pointing to the anticipated realization of the Reading Viaduct Rail Park project. For one thing, Bryan Hanes tells us the city’s Art Commission approved the project conceptual designs earlier today.

Meanwhile, Jared Brey over at PlanPhilly reports Councilman Mark Squilla has “introduced a bill that would authorize the purchase of the portion of the viaduct curving from 13th Street southeast to Callowhill between 11th and 12th.”  To be sure, the city’s interest in acquiring the upcoming Rail Park–a project born out of sheer grassroots neighborhood initiatives–isn’t random. Early last year, for example, the city pledged sizable amounts from its budget to the project.

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VIDEO: “The Abandoned Tunnel Under Philadelphia”

Screenshot of Uncover Philly, episode one.

Screenshot of Uncover Philly, episode one.

At this point, most of us are aware–and of course totally jazzed about–the planned Rail Park on the elevated section of the long-disused Reading Viaduct. What some may not be aware of is that the underground portion of the Viaduct, formerly used to transfer freight out of the city, is still there, silently waiting for its next functional chapter in Philadelphia.

What its next purpose might be is a question that hovers in the back of our minds as we watch Cory J. Popp’s latest video: “The Abandoned Tunnel Under Philadelphia,” the first episode in his Uncover Philly series. Here’s how Popp describes it:

The Reading Viaduct Tunnel is one of those places that most Philadelphian’s know exist, but few have actually seen it themselves. My hope is that this story will reignite interest in seeing this space repurposed and encourage more people to discover parts of the city they don’t often see.

Check out the episode here.

Morning Headlines: 5 Philly Parks, Including The Rail Park, Get Boost in Funding

The William Penn Foundation will partner with The Knight Foundation to donate $11 million to five city parks, according to a report from Inga Saffron in The Inquirer. The announcement will be made formal today and give a shot in the arm to some special projects, including the funding of the landscaping at The Rail Park at North Broad at Noble Streets. According to Saffron:

All five projects are shovel-ready, have raised most of the necessary construction funds, and can be completed relatively quickly, in less than two years.

The money will go to the Fairmount Park Conservancy as part of the Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative in an effort to realize five projects:

  • $1 million for landscaping at The Rail Park
  • $6 million towards the creation of creative playground called Centennial Commons in Parkside near the Please Touch Museum. According to Saffron, the “development includes a climbing wall, a mini-mountain range, and a spray park that turns into a winding ice-skating track in winter.”
  • $250,000 to help kickstart Bartram’s Mile along the Schuylkill in Kingsessing
  • $1.75 million towards the Lovett Memorial Library project in Mount Airy
  • $1 million for an Audubon/Outward Bound program in the Discovery Center in East Fairmount Park

Foundations partnering to enable railroad viaduct park [The Inquirer]

Other can’t-miss news stories…

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Rail Park Plans Continue to Make Headway with Phase 1

As one reader reminded us on our roundup of developments we’ll be tracking in 2015, the proposed Rail Park is one of the city’s most anticipated projects of the new year. Well, guess what? Friends of the Rail Park sent out a status update on the project’s first phase a few days ago! Here’s what it said:

BREAKING GROUND ON PHASE 1  Designs for the first phase of the Rail Park are complete. Construction documents are ready to bid out. A lease for Phase 1 between the Center City District (CCD) and SEPTA is being finalized. The CCD has grant commitments in hand for nearly 50% of the expected $8.5 million in construction costs and is awaiting word on one additional grant. In concert with CCD’s efforts, FRP continues to build support and develop resources to steward Phase 1 while bringing attention to the entire 3-mile site.

Woohoo! Plus…

Illuminating PBS Documentary on the Reading Viaduct

reading viaduct pbs screen shot

A screen shot from PBS Digital Studios’ “Unusual Spaces No. 2”

Even those who oppose the idea of turning the abandoned Philadelphia Reading Railroad tracks into public space will have a hard time feeling cynical about this short film from PBS Digital, a series by Raymond A. Schillinger. Featured on Gizmodo yesterday, among other places, the four-minute documentary is told through the eyes of Paul vanMeter, the project’s most tenacious advocate, and the founder of ViaductGreene, who died shortly after this film was made. It’s safe to say that without vanMeter’s passion for the project, we would not be where we are today.

The film is probably the best primer for people looking to understand what and where the project is, both underground and aboveground, and what it looks like now. Even I, as someone steeped in this subject matter, feel like I have a better sense of what’s being proposed now that I’ve seen it. Certainly, the scenes shot underground are immensely helpful.

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