If you're a supporter of the Reading Viaduct rails-to-trails project and you're on the hunt for something to do Saturday night, you're in luck. Friends of the Rail Park and the Callowhill Neighborhood Association have joined forces to put together a giant block party fundraising benefit tomorrow evening at 12th & Noble Streets.
Tickets are still available for the after-party ($10 in advance, $15 at the door), which will feature Philadelphia Fringe Festival performances, live music, live comedy, fire dancers, a wide array of food trucks, and beer provided by Yards Brewing Company. All proceeds from ticket sales, beer & wine sales, and silkscreened t-shirts will go directly to the maintenance and upkeep of the rail park's first phase, which will stretch from Broad & Noble to 11th & Callowhill, and is slated for construction in 2014.
It's easy to get excited about the potential of the Reading Viaduct project when comparing it to the massive success of the High Line in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. It cost roughly $150 million to redevelop the 1.5-mile stretch of the High Line, which has since spurred about $2 billion in new construction and attracts about 3 million visitors each year. Keep in mind that the economies of Philadelphia and New York City are vastly different, but with the abundance of empty lots and unused industrial buildings in the Callowhill neighborhood, developing the viaduct seems promising.
Aaron Goldblatt, Board Secretary of Friends of the Rail Park, makes a compelling case for the project:
The Rail Park presents Philadelphia with an extraordinary opportunity. We propose transforming a discarded industrial artery, something that once flowed with the city's manufacturing lifeblood, into a civic asset like no other. As a park, this three-mile former rail corridor will serve as a pedestrian and cyclist-friendly thoroughfare through Center City, soften hardscaped neighborhoods with much-needed publicly accessible green space, connect cultural and academic institutions and neighborhoods, and celebrate our industrial heritage. From Fairmount Park to the threshold of Northern Liberties, park users can travel more than 50 blocks without crossing a street. They will be treated to mysterious and beautiful subterranean spaces, meadows that make you forget you are in the midst of a major metropolis, and soaring vistas of Philadelphia. There is a vibrant ecosystem doing quite well without us throughout the existing site. Plants regarded as weeds, as well as precious garden specimens striking out on their own have found a home among the urban rubble. We propose to honor the vibrancy, manage it, and allow it to coexist with humans enjoying the park.
Cities throughout the United States and Europe are reclaiming unused rail rights-of-way for walking, cycling, and open green spaces. We look to models in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Paris, Helsinki, Berlin - among many others - for inspiration and guidance. We also celebrate the fact that Philadelphia's Rail Park will set a new standard for such projects. The Rail Park presents a scale, connectivity, and opportunities to engage us with our rich history, and innovative land management practices like no other in the world.
When: Saturday, September 14 from 7:30-11:00pm
Where: Outdoors, 1200 Noble St.
How much: $10 in advance (+$0.30 fee) or $15 at the door
Tickets: Right here