Design firm hired to plan private garden over rail trench seen as future extension of ‘Philly’s High Line’
The move represents a setback for those who had hoped to someday connect the sunken former railway passage with the elevated section of the Rail Park that began opening last year.
The developer of the 2100 Hamilton condo plan near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway has hired a landscape firm to design a private garden for residents that would cap part of a former railway eyed by some as part of a proposed three-mile-long public greenway known as the Rail Park.
Bock Development Group said in a news release that it has retained Haddonfield-based landscape architects Sikora Wells Appel to design what it described as an “urban oasis” at the foot of the 10-story condo tower it plans at the site behind the Rodin Museum.
The move represents a setback for those who had hoped to someday see the sunken former railway passage redeveloped into an open-air extension to the Rail Park that began greeting visitors last year on the other side of Broad Street. The “cut,” as the below-grade western portion of the rail line is known, and the elevated “viaduct” to the east once made up the Reading Railroad’s path through central Philadelphia.
Friends of the Rail Park, the nonprofit backer of the plan that’s sometimes seen as Philadelphia’s answer to the High Line greenway in New York, previously called on Bock to use its private-garden budget to instead help jump-start the park’s western arm by landscaping the portion of the trench beside the tower site.
Rail Park board member Michael Garden did not immediately return a phone call Monday asking what Bock’s cap would mean for his group’s plans. Bock vice president Denise Collins said in an email that her company has “air rights” to the property over the trench, currently owned by SEPTA.
The planned private garden is to feature trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses, mixed perennials, and a 45-foot wide “water wall” that “frames the Rodin as both a prominent focal point and an extension of the garden itself," according to the release.
It is also to include a plaza that can be used for events and a lounge area under a pergola with self-adjusting louvers to provide shelter from the sun and rain.
“We wanted to create a beautiful garden and oasis that is an extension of the Parkway and the Rodin Museum, one that is both an amenity for the residents and an enhancement to the neighborhood,” Joe Sikora, a principal with Sikora Wells Appel, said in the release.
The firm has previously designed landscapes at Longwood Gardens, Villanova University, the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and the Navy Yard.