Ryan Briggs Ryan Briggs is a staff writer and connoisseur of City Hall intrigue, business dealings, neighborhood gossip and local lore. Ryan has studied, worked and resided in Philadelphia since 2004, covering politics and development issues for Hidden City, Next City and Metropolis, amongst other fine publications.
The Friends of the Rail Park are hosting a fundraiser on Wednesday to support phase one of a long-running proposal to convert a highly visible and decrepit elevated railway north of Center City into a local version of New York City's vaunted Highline park. $30 gets you into a benefit concert at the Union Transfer featuring the Walkmen and the Sun Ra Arkestra, $100 includes a VIP reception catered by local restaurants Bufad and Cafe Lift.
The plan to reuse the crumbling rail line, a favorite haunt of urban explorers, has run into problems in the past. A 2011 bill, heavily pushed by the Center City District, that would have created a dedicated funding source for the park through a surtax on surrounding properties, went down in flames after businesses and neighbors voted against the plan. The viaduct had also long been eyed by various interests in Chinatown for demolition that could make way for affordable housing, although those plans are mostly conceptual.
But the notion of a park conversion, and arguably unrealistic dreams of a Chelsea-on-the-Delaware (or at least I-676), has proven to be resilient. More recently, plans to include the City Line, a giant underground rail tunnel that connects to the Viaduct, as subterranean parkland, were added to the plan, broadening its appeal.
The Friends group also hosted a successful fundraiser in September and, likely with the support of the CCD, expects to break ground on phase one of the park plan in 2014.
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