Almost a year ago, when we learned that the Community Design Collaborative [CDC] awarded us a service grant to bring on a volunteer consultant team to develop conceptual designs for five blocks of the City Branch [from 13th to 18th Streets, focusing on the connection to Broad Street], we could not have been more thrilled. Well, so we thought at the time. Then, when we saw what the design team—led by OLIN and including Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, CVM Engineers, and VJ Associates—came up with months later, we were definitely more thrilled. And *now* we could not be more thrilled to share their great work with the world. Really this time. We are certain that the team’s inspiring imagery and innovative approach to the opportunities and challenges of this project will prove invaluable in our advocacy efforts to preserve the City Branch for reuse as a linear park.
On Tuesday evening Friends of the Rail Park board members Leah Murphy and Aaron Goldblatt were hosted by The Corzo Center for the Creative Economy to present and discuss the designs as a part of Design Philadelphia’s spring lecture series, Creating with Constraints. It was a full house and full of energy, and we were so happy to have a few members of the design team on hand to hear the crowd’s audible reaction when the first rendering was shown.
That response meant the team did exactly what we needed them to do. Many folks have no trouble at all looking down into the City Branch from street level and seeing its potential as a linear park. We have learned that for some, it’s a bit of a stretch until they walk the whole three miles—on the actual former rail bed itself—and then they get it, no problem. Others need a little help visualizing what the character of the City Branch might be redesigned as public open space and how it might connect to the street grid above. The design team’s work bridges that gap of the imagination, at the same time surprising and inspiring those of us who felt like we could already “see it” with some design elements that allowed us to see the City Branch and its potential for connectivity in an entirely new way.
The bigger story—with more on the rationale behind focusing on this particular stretch of the City Branch and on the details of the conceptual design—is in our press release. Also check out the recent blog posts from Hidden City Philadelphia, OLIN, and Philebrity. And if you want the whole story, straight from the design team, take a look at the final report.
Following a year and a half of establishing relationships through community advocacy, tours, and meetings with City agencies, local decision-makers, regional foundations, neighborhood groups, and other organizations, Friends of the Rail Park recruited a 40-member Community Task Force to participate in developing a shared vision and conceptual designs. We are so thankful for our Task Force members for their time and efforts in guiding the process, voicing the interests and concerns of their constituencies, and providing feedback on the preliminary conceptual designs.
Friends of the Rail Park is indebted to Heidi Levy, Beth Miller, and the rest of the gang at the Community Design Collaborative for all the great work they do and—of course—to the stellar design team for their creativity, professionalism, and tireless efforts: Richard Roark, Ben Monette, Jessica Henson and Agnes Ladjevardi of OLIN; Frank Grauman, Erin Roark and Megan Strenski of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson; Robert Schaeffer and Julie P. Wiley of CVM; and Chongba Sherpa of VJ Associates.
And last but certainly not least, a big thanks to Hillary Jay of Design Philadelphia, and Neil Kleinman of The Corzo Center for the Creative Economy for their heartfelt and continued support!