City moving forward on Reading Viaduct Rail Park

A new, green use for one of Phila's old industrial landmarks, the old Reading Viaduct, is taking shape. Focusing on the SEPTA spur which starts just off Noble Street (lower left) and veers off to 11th Street where it connects to the Reading Viaduct. This overall photo was taken from 401 N. Broad St. April 3, 2014. ( CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer )

The city is moving to purchase a portion of the Reading Viaduct in anticipation of the development of an elevated park there.

Councilman Mark Squilla introduced a bill last week that would authorize the purchase of the portion of the viaduct curving from 13th Street southeast to Callowhill between 11th and 12th. The 0.8-acre property is currently owned by SEPTA. It rises from ground-level up to the elevated portion of the viaduct to the east, a former rail line that’s been out of use for 30 years.

Developing the ramp is the first phase of construction for the years-in-the-making Reading Viaduct Rail Park, which has picked up steam recently with a $1 million grant from the Knight Foundation. Plans for the property, which is a quarter-mile long, were developed by Studio Bryan Hanes, the landscape architecture firm responsible for Sister Cities Park on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway as well as the Spruce Street Harbor Park that’s reopening later this month.

The Center City District is raising money to complete the planned improvements on the first phase of the project. The group has raised about 65 percent of the $9 million it needs for the SEPTA spur, and is pursuing a $3.5 million grant from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP), according to John Struble, of Friends of the Rail Park. After the improvements are completed, the city would take over ownership of the park.

SEPTA’s board of directors must also approve the sale of the property. A spokesman for SEPTA said the sale has not yet been scheduled for a board vote.

See renderings of phase one here.