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Friends of the Rail Park launches Time Capsule Initiative

With a $145,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Friends of the Rail Park’s Time Capsule Initiative encourages residents to submit their stories to a digital archive and story map.  


Friends of the Rail Park has launched the Rail Park Time Capsule, a digital archive and map that will visualize the stories, objects, spaces and places that sustain culture and hold historic value for the people that live, work, and play in the neighborhoods adjacent to the Rail Park’s Three Mile Vision. The Rail Park Time Capsule will highlight what Philadelphians love about their neighborhoods, capturing the diverse identities and perspectives in each of these neighborhoods as told by the people that live there. The Time Capsule will collect resident feedback about the plans for the Rail Park, which will help to shape the future expansion of the park. 


The Rail Park Time Capsule is supported by a $145,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation - part of the Foundation’s investment in work to address inequity in Philadelphia’s public spaces through the creation of digital tools that foster civic dialogue, attachment to place, and resident engagement in the design and programming of Philadelphia public spaces. A recent study from Knight Foundation and Gehl affirmed that public space projects that prioritize resident input and establish equitable access can help communities build connections and resiliency 


“To have a sense of belonging, to feel heard, and to have connection to other people is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic as people are physically isolated and have less opportunity for civic participation,” said Rebecca Cordes Chan, Executive Director of Friends of the Rail Park.  “The Time Capsule is a platform for Philadelphians to document their neighborhood memories and stories on an interactive map, preserving their history and making the connection between everyday places and the collective attachments and hopes for the future held by the community,” she added. 


Residents and visitors can browse submissions and contribute their own online or at in person Rail Park events.  


“In Philadelphia, we invest in individuals and organizations that support the equitable development of engaging public spaces,” said Ellen Hwang, Knight Foundation’s Philadelphia program director. “The Rail Time Park Capsule is an innovative way to foster community engagement, bringing Philly’s rich history directly to our community, ultimately building a more informed Philadelphia.” 


“Technology is an essential tool for shaping communities,” said Lilian Coral, Knight Foundation’s director for national strategy and technology innovation. “The Rail Time Park Capsule leverages tech and data to hear directly from Philadelphians about what they love most about their neighborhood, which will help inform the future Rail Park’s master plan.” 


As Friends of the Rail Park advocates for the Rail Park’s expansion, the organization aims to utilize the Time Capsule to create a shared vision for the park that uplifts and preserves the physical and cultural assets that are important to residents in the adjacent neighborhoods: Brewerytown, Fairmount, Logan Square, Spring Garden, North Broad, Francisville, Poplar, Callowhill, Chinatown, Northern Liberties, and Center City. The Time Capsule Initiative will also help to inform the creation of an equitable development plan, by providing insight into the complex values and needs in the communities adjacent to the park.   




Friends of the Rail Park  

Founded in 2010 after years of advocacy by a committed group of community members, Friends of the Rail Park (FRP) is the non-profit organization that drives the vision behind the transformation of historic rail lines that traverse Philadelphia into the Rail Park. FRP’s mission is to build bold, transformative, and inclusive public space that connects Philadelphia’s residents and visitors to the city and each other. Working in close partnership with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, FRP is part of a growing international movement of infrastructure reuse projects, supporting community development and transforming cities in the process. 


The Rail Park is a vision for a three-mile linear park and multi-use pathway connecting 10 distinct Philadelphia neighborhoods and 50+ city blocks along the site of former historic Reading and Pennsylvania Railroad lines. The above and below grade site offers an opportunity to create a world class public space driven by collaborating with communities from every corner of the city, building from existing cultural assets, promoting health and wellness, and advancing equitable access to the investment in this large-scale public works project, positioning the park as an integral part of comprehensive community development in Philadelphia. 


Open to the public since June 2018, Phase One of the Rail Park is a $13 million project transforming a quarter-mile section of the former Reading Railroad—which reaches from Broad and Noble streets up onto the elevated 1100 block of Callowhill Street in Philadelphia. Serving as a stunning “proof of concept,” Phase One is a welcoming community greenspace, with pathways, low-maintenance perennial plantings, trees, seating, bench-style swings, local art, and elevated city views. The design preserves and restores much of the historic steel viaduct structure, while introducing materials of a similar industrial scale and character. 


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