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Plan to redevelop Reading Viaduct faces hurdles

10/21/2011 | Real Estate Blog

Philadelphia city officials and supporters from the three-block branch of the Reading Viaduct-an abandoned railway that operated from 1893 to ‘984-have reportedly come up with a development plan intended to revitalize the area. The project is reportedly being led by the Reading Viaduct Project.

The neighborhood has reportedly become increasingly dilapidated in recent years, being overcome by trees, plants and tall grass. Some buildings in the area are redeveloped, though others are vacant. There is also a good deal of debris scattering the area. The Reading Viaduct Project and its supporters hope that turning the railway into a greenway will attract people and businesses, and help develop the area.

Interestingly, the idea to convert the railway to a greenway was inspired by a similar project in New York City in which the High Line, an aged rail bed on the west side of Manhattan, was remade into an elevated park. The project, which was completed in 2009, was apparently a success, and similar projects have been proposed in other cities, including Chicago and St. Louis.

A study commissioned by the Center City District estimated that it would cost around $14 million less to stabilize and landscape the area than to demolish it. There still remain obstacles, though, as no funding has yet come forward for the project and the current owner of most of the viaduct has not yet approved the development plan. Until funding comes forward, a less expensive redevelopment plan is the best supporters can hope for.

Another obstacle comes from those who say that demolishing the Viaduct and building affordable housing is a better plan. There are also apparently concerns about fees that will be imposed with the proposed redevelopment, such as trash removal and street cleaning, accompanied by fears that such things will drive out some residents from the area.

Only time will tell whether the project goes forward.

Source: CBS, “NYC High Line inspires Philly to redevelop viaduct,” October 17, 2011.