The Race Street Pier Park and the Schuylkill River Trail are solid examples of the kind of new parks Philadelphia can and should have more of. The proposed Reading Viaduct Park could be another, even more significant addition to the city.
On June 7, 2011 the completion of Philadelphia 2035, the city’s first comprehensive development plan in 50 years, was celebrated at Moore College of Art & Design with a speech by Mayor Michael Nutter. This road map for growth in Philadelphia must still be approved by City Council.
Architect critic Inga Saffron points out the differences between the city’s previous plan from 1960 and the Philadelphia 2035 proposal in Changing Skyline: A Small-scale Vision of Philadelphia’s Future. She seems disappointed that the new vision for the city is not more awesomely ambitious while at the same time recognizing that the current economic environment is drastically different from that in 1960.
For my part, I prefer smaller but better development. After all Penn’s Landing was part of that 1960 plan and it proved to be a monumental under-achiever. What I would like to see are more parks like the Schuylkill River Trail and Race Street Pier Park — many more — and a well-designed Reading Viaduct Park could be to Philadelphia what the High Line Park has been to New York City.
Luckily, as Saffron confirms, Philadelphia 2035 endorses the concept of turning the abandoned Reading Viaduct into an elevated city park. Such reclamation of neglected urban space has proved to be a big boon for New York City, where the second phase of the High Line Park has just opened. A movement is also underway in Chicago to convert 3 miles of the old Bloomingdale rail line into a linear park.
Several Facebook pages share news and drum up support for building a park on the abandoned viaduct in Center City: Reading Viaduct Project, Reading Viaduct Park-Philly’s Park In The Sky, VIADUCTgreene for example.
Searching with the keywords: reading, viaduct, and philadelphia on Flickr.com I turned up about 360 photos that testify to long years of neglect and decay in the heart of Philadelphia. Seen another way though, those same photos offer perspectives on a space that could play a great role in the further development of this city as one of the most highly livable and vibrant cities in North America.