Press release

Groundbreaking for Viaduct Rail Park

Phase 1 of Elevated Park to Be Completed in Early 2018

Linda K. Harris

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Renderings available

PHILADELPHIA (October 31, 2016) – Today, Governor Tom Wolf, Mayor Jim Kenney, State Representative Michael H. O’Brien, Councilman Mark Squilla, and Sarah McEneaney, President of Friends of the Rail Park and the Callowhill Neighborhood Association, joined Center City District (CCD) President Paul R. Levy to celebrate the groundbreaking for Phase 1 of the Viaduct Rail Park, a $10.3 million project that will turn a dilapidated quarter-mile portion of the former Reading Viaduct into a vibrant green park with walking paths, landscaping, lighting, seating and swinging benches.

The first phase of the new 25,000-square-foot linear park, starting at Broad Street, includes the 1300 block of Noble Street and improvements to the Viaduct and bridges, running southeast across 13th and 12th Streets to Callowhill Street, was designed by Studio| Bryan Hanes and Urban Engineers. The Viaduct Rail Park will be ADA accessible and will provide a much-needed green amenity on the northern edge of Center City. It is funded through a combination of state, city, foundation and private resources.

“This transformational project will create a new community space and trail in a neighborhood completely lacking public amenities and green space,” Governor Wolf said. “Additionally, this investment will support the expansion of both the Callowhill and Chinatown neighborhoods and promote growth in an underdeveloped area near Center City.”

In order to enable a construction start in 2016, the CCD began the competitive bid process in July 2016, based on construction documents prepared by Urban Engineers and Studio|Bryan Hanes, and approved by all relevant City agencies. Six qualified contractors bid on the project and the CCD selected AP Construction, a regional contractor with offices in Philadelphia, as the lowest responsible bidder for the project. The contractor is committed to subcontracting 20.15% of the project costs to Minority Business Enterprises and 12.1% to Woman Business Enterprises. The project is expected to be completed in early 2018.

SEPTA is leasing the land to the CCD for construction. Upon completion of the improvements, the CCD will turn the completed project over to the City of Philadelphia, which will own the park and maintain it in a partnership between the City’s Department of Parks & Recreation and Streets Department, the Friends of the Rail Park, and the CCD.

“The City of Philadelphia is proud to have supported this outstanding project and our Parks & Recreation and Streets Departments are committed to managing and maintaining the park for the benefit of all Philadelphians who will enjoy the many amenities of the new elevated park, which also will provide great views of our beautiful city,” said Mayor Jim Kenney.

On September 30, Governor Tom Wolf announced the award of a $3.5 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant to the CCD for the Viaduct Rail Park, which enabled the project to move to construction. The City of Philadelphia has committed $2.8 million and five foundations – the William Penn Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Poor Richard’s Charitable Trusts, the McLean Contributionship and the Tuttleman Family Foundation – have collectively contributed $2.3 million. The project also has received other state grants and generous business and individual contributions.

The Center City District Foundation will continue the fundraising efforts during construction to fill a remaining $800,000 gap and today has launched the “Fund the Rail Park” fundraising site that encourages people to enlist friends and colleagues, creating a crowd-sourced fundraising team at In addition, donations and gifts can be made at

“The Viaduct Rail Park will be a welcoming green space and new amenity for residents, workers and students from across the city, as well as visitors to Philadelphia,” said Paul R. Levy, President and CEO of the Center City District. “The redevelopment of the Viaduct will foster new investment and prompt the redevelopment of several major vacant parcels in the surrounding neighborhood. We are grateful to Governor Wolf, Representative O’Brien, Mayor Kenney, Councilman Squilla and all our generous supporters and the partnership of the Friends of the Rail Park, which helped make this new park a reality.”

In 2010, with generous contributions of $50,000 from the William Penn Foundation and $25,000 from Poor Richard’s Charitable Trust, the CCD commissioned a feasibility analysis of the entire Viaduct that runs from Vine Street to Fairmount Avenue. The consulting team was Urban Engineers, Cecil Baker + Partners, and Friends of the High Line, New York City. The City of Philadelphia retained Jones Lang LaSalle. The consultants jointly evaluated options that included total and partial demolition of the Viaduct, as well as renovation alternatives, and assessed the potential impact of each option on real estate and community development in the area.
The study concluded that renovating the Viaduct was far less expensive than demolishing it (at a cost of $50 million) and that significant environmental liabilities and costs could be minimized by capping and covering any contaminated soil that might still exist in the fill beneath the tracks. Further, the team concluded that based on the experience in other cities, the project was highly likely to generate new investment in the surrounding area.

In 2011, based on these conclusions, and with further generous contributions of $75,000 from the William Penn Foundation and $25,000 from Poor Richard’s Charitable Trust, the CCD commissioned schematic design and engineering by Urban Engineers and Studio| Bryan Hanes. The planning, which focused on the SEPTA-owned spur only, was conducted in partnership with the Friends of the Rail Park, community stakeholders, the City’s Commerce Department and Department of Parks & Recreation. It began with a neighborhood meeting in the fall of 2011 to discuss community preferences and aspirations for the Viaduct. In January 2012, the design team presented multiple design options at a community meeting with residents, property owners, and businesses from the area. Following the meeting, an on-line survey was conducted in which more than 50 participants expressed their preferences and provided extensive comments. The community participants strongly favored making the park an informal, leafy green space with plenty of grass and flowering plants, and with room to walk and sit. They wanted the park to maintain the industrial authenticity of its origins, while still meeting modern safety, code, and access requirements.

In early March 2012, Studio| Bryan Hanes and Urban Engineers, incorporating the preferences cited by community participants, presented renderings of a new public park on the SEPTA spur. The design called for entrances to the Viaduct on North Broad Street at Noble Street, at 13th and Noble Streets, and on Callowhill between 11th and 12th Streets. The response from the community was enthusiastic, resulting in the selection of a preferred schematic design alternative. The City of Philadelphia generously funded the creation of construction documents.

The project has an enormous range of friends and supporters for whom the CCD is extremely grateful: the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the City of Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenney, State Representative Michael H. O’Brien, Councilman Mark Squilla, former Councilman Frank DiCicco, the William Penn Foundation, the Knight Foundation in partnership with the Fairmount Park Conservancy, Poor Richard’s Charitable Trust, The McLean Contributionship, a host of individual donors and the Friends of the Rail Park, a community-based organization committed to the creation of the park, which has dramatically expanded the visibility and support for the park through events and social media.

Major Donors to Phase 1 Construction
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – $3,500,000
City of Philadelphia – $2,800,000
Knight Foundation – $1,000,000
William Penn Foundation – $750,000
Poor Richard’s Charitable Trust – $505,000
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources – $500,300
Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development – $125,000
The McLean Contributionship – $50,000
Post Brothers – $25,000
Tuttleman Family Foundation – $12,500
Anonymous – $10,000
Bank of America – $10,000
Univest – $10,000
Victor Keen and Jeanne Ruddy – $10,000
Five Below – $5,000
Parkway Corporation – $5,000
Sarah McEneaney – $5,000
Various Donors – $212,217

Total Donations to Date – $9,535,017

For complete information on the project, please go to To become a friend of the Rail Park, please go to To see renderings of the Viaduct Rail Park, Phase 1, please go to

Map of the Viaduct Rail Park Project: PDF [401 KB]


The Center City District, a private-sector organization dedicated to making Center City Philadelphia clean, safe and attractive, is committed to maintaining Center City’s competitive edge as a regional employment center, a quality place to live, and a premier regional destination for dining, shopping and cultural attractions. Find us at and on Facebook and Twitter.