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Graffiti Pier and Three Projects that 'Embraced the Space'

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[Images via Conrad Benner/Streets Dept.]

While most of the news about Philly's street art scene seems to be focused on the recent impromptu (read: meltdown) buffing of the Kurt Vile Mural, Streets Dept. has a cool post that takes a look into celebrating and protecting some of the current land uses for Philadelphia's abandoned spaces. His case for Graffiti Pier in Kensington is interesting and calls on the city (or developers) to basically make it safer (so people don't fall in the Delaware River) and just let it live on as an ever-changing triumph of civic creativity — embrace the space, if you will. While Graffiti Pier, also know as Graffiti Underground, doesn't seem to be in any imminent danger of redevelopment, it's certainly possible given its place along the rapidly changing Delaware River. However, there are a few recent instances where unintended, and sometimes illegal, land uses have been incorporated into future plans for the site. Let's take a look.

↑ LOVE Park and Paine Skate Plaza:
Benner's piece about Graffiti Pier specifically references LOVE Park and how it unintentionally became the epicenter of skateboarding in Center City. Given that it was illegal to skate there, the city stepped up enforcement within the park and made some site "improvements" to discourage skating. Fine. Even though the venerable Ed Bacon was cool with it, skating at LOVE Park was over in the minds of city officials. However, this was luckily seen as an opportunity. Although ten years in the making, Franklin's Paine Skate Plaza has been a huge success and, perhaps most importantly, is a legal spot for skating and biking along the awesome Schuylkill River Trail. Admittedly, it's not a replacement for the famed LOVE Park, but it showed everyone that there was indeed a need for this use and that unconventional developments can be wildly successful.

↑ Pier 68 Fishing Park and Boat Terminus:
This abandoned pier has long been illegally used as an access point for watercraft and fisherman, alike. Tug boat operators like to dock at Pier 68 and grab supplies at Walmart before heading back on the water. Fisherman love the pier because it juts out far into the Delaware River and fish have taken to living in the thriving ecosystem that's developed around the long abandoned pier. While these current uses are most definitely illegal, they've also helped to shape the designs for the redevelopment project — ah hem — which were just released last week. Soon this pier will be an open, welcoming public space with legal public fishing as one of its main draws. Plans are in the works to make it an active terminus for boats and other watercraft as well.

↑ Reading Railroad Viaduct/Rail Park:
Whether above the ground on elevated railroad tracks or below the city in subterranean pathways, the unorthodox usage of abandoned railroad infrastructure could soon see it become a place for public enjoyment. Currently in the planning phase, there has been a huge movement in recent years to transform the remaining infrastructure of the Reading Railroad Viaduct into a project called The Rail Park. Urban explorers of all ages have long hopped onto the abandoned elevated tracks near Spring Garden Street for an unrivaled Philadelphia experience and vantage point. While the scale of the overall project is enormous (50 city blocks), the old SEPTA spur near North Broad Street is gaining the most traction and could spark the beginning of the larger picture that would certainly be a game-changer for Philadelphia.
· The case for Graffiti Pier [Streets Dept.]
· Curbed's Skateboarding Coverage [Curbed Philly]
· 92 Year Old Ed Bacon Skateboards In LOVE Park [Skatenerd]
· Pier 68 to Transform from Eyesore to Beautiful Public Park [Curbed Philly]
· Elevated park on rail viaduct finally firming up [The Inquirer]