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Construction of the Reading Viaduct rail park began this month with the receipt of $3.5 million in state grants to round out initial fundraising efforts. Spearheaded by the Center City District, the first phase of construction is taking place on a stretch of the old rail bed near 13th and Noble. Proponents hope the park could eventually replicate the success of the High Line, a repurposed elevated railroad right-of-way in lower Manhattan, and spur greater development in the area.
The viaduct winds through a former industrial neighborhood that has been slowly transforming into a residential and creative community over the last decade (earlier this year, the City completed a rezoning of the area from industrial to mixed-use). Officially known as Callowhill, the neighborhood is roughly bounded by 9th and Broad to the east and west, and Spring Garden and Vine to the north and south. The area also goes by many other names, including Loft District, Chinatown North, Eraserhood, and Spring Arts.
Developer Craig Grossman has purchased a number of properties in the vicinity of the viaduct, including 990 Spring Garden. The 990 building is a 7-story, 160,000-square-foot industrial loft building repurposed as flexible office space for creative individuals and businesses. Many residential conversions have taken place along the periphery, including larger scale projects such as the Old Shoe Factory condos and Goldtex apartments on 12th Street, as well as Bart Blatstein’s Tower Place apartments in the old state office building at Broad and Spring Garden.
In testament to the evolving nature of the neighborhood, the Roy Pitz brewing company is planning a 4,000 square foot brewpub in the 990 Spring Garden building to open early next year. The brewery will join other nearby restaurant and entertainment venues such as Union Transfer, Prohibition Taproom and the soon-to-be relocated Yards Brewing Co. in the 500 block of Spring Garden. Other restaurants are nearby on the Avenue of the Arts North corridor.
The rail park is not the only public works project with the potential to transform the area. The East Coast Greenway, a developing trail system intended to link major cities on the Eastern Seaboard, runs right down Spring Garden Street. Infrastructure improvements are in the works to make the thoroughfare more inviting to bicyclists and pedestrians.
Future phases of the rail park could take it all the way to its northern end near 9th and Fairmount. Unlike the portion under development, which is owned by SEPTA, the remainder of the viaduct east of Broad is still privately owned by the successors to Reading Company. While development could take many years, it still has the potential to transform Callowhill into one of the City’s most desired neighborhoods.
For more information see: www.therailpark.org.
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