Center City elevated rail park now on fast track
City Council will hold a hearing on the long-discussed plan Monday.
AFTER YEARS of talk by elected officials, city boosters and everyday citizens about how great it would be to have a green park on a portion of the abandoned Reading Railroad elevated viaduct, the idea appears to be on the fast track.
City Council's Committee on Public Property and Public Works will hold a hearing Monday to discuss a bill introduced last week by Councilman Mark Squilla that would authorize the city to acquire 1/4-mile of the rail property now owned by SEPTA.
"We think it's a great project, not only for the neighborhood but for the entire city," Squilla said yesterday.
"This is the perfect time to do this. This will also create an area where we can get more development, hopefully add more businesses in the area and raise our tax base. The whole thing about our school district is, how do we get more funding?"
Squilla introduced the bill on behalf of Mayor Nutter's administration, said mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald.
"It's a great start to bringing back that viaduct," McDonald said. "There's obviously way more [land]; this is only one small segment. But this is a wonderful start."
The property, in the Callowhill neighborhood just north of Center City, runs from Broad Street southeast across 13th and 12th streets to Callowhill Street.
Plans call for the rail property - shuttered since 1984 - to be transformed into a vibrant park with walking paths, landscaping, lighting, seating and gathering spaces, similar to refurbished elevated railways in New York, Paris and elsewhere.
The $9 million project would be funded by a combination of state, city, foundation and private sources, according to the Center City District, a leading force behind the effort.
SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said the property would be leased to the Center City District to make the renovations. The transit authority's board must approve the deal first, she said.
Once the park is completed, the city would purchase it for $1 from SEPTA, according to Squilla's bill.
The project is being referred to as the first phase of the rail park, given that the derelict 19th century Reading viaduct consists of 4 1/2 acres.