Philadel­phia rail­road ru­ins trans­formed into el­e­vated park

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FOOD - By Kris­ten De Groot

PHILADEL­PHIA » A long-aban­doned rail line is open for busi­ness again in Philadel­phia, trans­formed into an el­e­vated park and the city’s an­swer to New York’s High Line.

The quar­ter-mile-long Rail Park will open to visi­tors Thurs­day, the first phase of a park that sup­port­ers hope will even­tu­ally span 3 miles through the cen­ter of Philadel­phia via former Read­ing Rail­road tun­nels, rail cuts and el­e­vated plat­forms. The end re­sult would be about twice the length and width of the High Line.

The first phase is a walk­a­ble oa­sis that rises above the gritty, post-in­dus­trial neigh­bor­hood called Cal­lowhill. It fea­tures art in­stal­la­tions, spa­ces for loung­ing, durable porch swings and amaz­ing views of the city.

“The whole pur­pose was proof of con­cept. Could we ac­tu­ally ren­o­vate this rail line?” said Paul Levy, of the Cen­ter City Dis­trict, a busi­ness im­prove­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion man­ag­ing the first phase. “What I fully hope hap­pens is that peo­ple will get to the end of the park and say ‘Is this all?’ The idea is to get peo­ple en­thu­si­as­tic about what’s next.”

A time­frame for the next phase hasn’t been es­tab­lished.

The Read­ing Rail­road viaduct was built in the 1890s to carry pas­sen­gers and freight to Cen­ter City. The last train trav­eled the rails in 1984 and the viaduct was left to de­te­ri­o­rate. In 2003, a grass­roots neigh­bor­hood coali­tion be­gan ef­forts for the cre­ation of a park on the viaduct. Be­tween 2014 and 2016, $10.3 mil­lion in funds were raised for con­struc­tion, which got un­der­way on Hal­loween 2016.

Julie Feather­man has lived in

the Cal­lowhill neigh­bor­hood since 2002, drawn by the af­ford­able town­houses, the prox­im­ity to down­town and the neigh­bor­hood feel that she com­pares to New York City’s Meat­pack­ing Dis­trict in the 1980s. The hair sa­lon owner said she’s heard rum­blings for nearly a decade about turn­ing the over­grown ru­ins of the rail line into a park, and she thinks it’s great it has fi­nally come to fruition.

“It makes me feel ex­cited for my neigh­bor­hood,” she said. “It is in­dus­trial and gritty but it is the real thing, and I think peo­ple will like ex­plor­ing it.”

New York City’s High Line — a 22-block el­e­vated park — has helped trans­form neigh­bor­hoods on Man­hat­tan’s West Side. Lux­ury con­dos, gal­leries, restau­rants and bou­tiques have all but pushed out the in­dus­trial grime around the old freight route.

Pro­po­nents think the same could hap­pen in Philadel­phia, which is fine with Feather­man.

“I’m a lit­tle wor­ried about park­ing, but that’s about it,” she said.

JACQUELINE LARMA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Artist Brent Wahl looks at a part of an art in­stal­la­tion he and Laynie Browne made, at the Rail Park in Philadel­phia. The quar­ter-mile-long Rail Park is sched­uled to open to visi­tors Thurs­day June 14, the first phase of a park that sup­port­ers hope will even­tu­ally span 3 miles through the cen­ter of Philadel­phia via former Read­ing Rail­road tun­nels, rail cuts and el­e­vated plat­forms. The end re­sult would be about twice the length and width of New York’s High Line.

JACQUELINE LARMA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A sec­tion of the donor wall, a 75 foot long steel wall which tells the story of how the rail­roads made Philadel­phia the world’s in­dus­trial leader at one time, is seen at the Rail Park in Philadel­phia.

JACQUELINE LARMA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Work con­tin­ues at the Rail Park on a re­cent Thurs­day in Philadel­phia.

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