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Reading Viaduct Rail Park Aims for Fall 2016 Groundbreaking

At least, that's the plan as of this week

It's become the question of the past year: Will the Reading Viaduct Rail Park ever get built?

Here's the answer, at least as of this week: Yes, and they hope to break ground before this winter.

That's according to Michael Garden, secretary of Friends of the Rail Park, who told Billy Penn in an interview that they're still drumming up funds before they can break ground on phase 1 of the project.

Not that they haven't tried. Earlier this year we reported that much of the project's funds were tied up during the state budget impasse, which prevented the spring 2016 groundbreaking. That $3.5 million grant has yet to be released. Even the Bacon Brothers played a fundraising concert for the proposed rail park.

But according to Billy Penn, one major stakeholder in the Reading Viaduct Rail Park may be the key to finally getting shovels in the ground:

The portion of the Reading Viaduct where the park could expand to isn’t owned by the city or by SEPTA, an agency that’s been cooperative with the project.

It’s owned by Reading International, a publicly-traded company that was once a railroad giant but now operates movie theaters and owns real estate. The company didn’t respond to a request for comment from Billy Penn, but city records show the property was purchased in 1943 and there are now more than $16,000 in tax liens on the property.

So there's that. But remember: Folks will get a very small taste of what to expect at the rail park this summer, when the Philadelphia Horticultural Society hosts a pop-up beer garden near the site. It's expected to open seven weeks head of the Democratic National Convention in July.