(The Reading Viaduct as it currently stands)
The drive to construct a public park on top of the Reading Viaduct in Philadelphia appears to be picking up steam.
The project – in part inspired by the popular High Line in New York City – has been in discussion for over a decade. Now, it may finally become a reality.
A diverse group of funders are making great headway toward raising the projected $29 million necessary to construct the park. From the Fox Chase Bank-affiliated Philadelphia Mortgage Advisors to the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation, the business sector is stepping up to help cultivate the public life of Center City.
Grassroots funders are also playing a big role. Friends of the Rail Park – a nonprofit that arose from the merger of two separate organizations both advocating for the elevated park – maintains a donation portal that has enabled individual Philadelphians to contribute to the fundraising efforts.
The studio of landscape architect Bryan Hanes received the commission to design the park, and the initial renderings are stunning. Running through 50 blocks of multicultural neighborhoods, the Reading Viaduct was constructed 1893, and remained in operation for nearly a century before falling into disuse.
Early this year, foundation support gave the project a massive boost. The William Penn and Knight Foundations have contributed $1 million toward the park as part of a larger $11 million package given to improve and expand the Philadelphia park system.
Even if construction is far off, the fundraising activity over the last year has shown immense interest and support behind the project. If the popularity of the city’s Indego bike share program is any indication, New York City urban policies are adaptable to Philadelphia. The park’s eventual construction will certainly contribute to Philadelphia’s ongoing ascent as a national and global cultural center and exemplar of a rich and open public life.