At top: the Reading Viaduct, and at bottom, highlighted,
the City Branch Cut
From time to time, the Reading Viaduct Project makes the blogosphere rounds. It's a beautiful-sounding idea: turn an abandoned old embankment-and-trestle system, the former station lead for the Reading Terminal, into a park-in-the-sky à la James Corner's High Line. New kids on the block Viaduct Greene even suggest extending this park into the attached City Branch Cut.
For the most part, I like this idea. Both of the Viaduct sites are on my blogroll, after all. Callowhill has a lack of usable parkland, and the trestle section, while obsolete for railroad purposes, is still usable for other forms of transportation--bike networks, say. While Viaduct Greene's sunken section is definitely overkill, in large part because Philadelphia2050 (which, remember, this blog is dedicated to) suggests that the northern side of the Center City loop should be routed through it, the historic nature of this cut as the former right-of-way of Noble Street suggests that its continued use as a transportation artery--a bikeway connecting with the Viaduct--is still a viable idea.
But there are all sorts of other givens and druthers (as the Viaduct Greene folks are keen on saying). Callowhill is still largely un-redeveloped and still feels "unsafe". There is little money for new park investment, and funding priorities should be pumped into the underfunded existing system first, especially when the site is Superfund; and finally, the Chinatown CDC is dead set on bulldozing at least a part of it (something I'm against).
All I'm saying is that it's a good idea, but I would want to see funds raised privately first, and to see a CDC or two support it. It would still take at least a decade to happen, but Callowhill needs a decade to further grow.
EDIT 5/24: Landbank it!