Originally Posted by StatenIslander237
I know this is a random subject change, but maybe you seasoned Philadelphians can enlighten me on this one: I've been following the construction of the new Woodall Rodgers deck park in Dallas, and I can't help but wonder why there is no plan in place to eventually cover the Vine Street Expressway. Has this even ever been considered? And what do you guys think is the likelihood that it will happen in future? Considering that Northern Liberties is already on the upswing, I bet such an undertaking would be a boon to the community. Thanks!
I moved to Philly from Dallas so I kind of know of the context for both spaces. I don't think the two are comparable, especially if you are suggesting that the entire length of sunken Vine St Expwy be covered/decked. Woodall Rodgers deck is only spanning about four or five blocks, whereas the sunken Vine passes through the width of central Philly, probably about two miles long.
And a part of the Vine already is decked, on the western side of Broad St, where the Logan Square and Ben Franklin Parkway sit above the Expressway. From some vantage points, you can't even tell that there is a freeway below.
For one thing, Philly already has good tree cover and a park-like atmosphere along the Ben Franklin Parkway which makes for an easier connection between Center City and the Art Museum area just north of the Parkway. And plenty of people already use the surface streets to cross the Vine St to go to and from Callowhill neighborhood. Of course, it's another matter that there are issues of psychological and physical barriers apart from the Vine St Expwy but those are of different nature than what was faced in Dallas.
The Woodall Rodgers is quite narrow in the downtown area, compared to the BFP. And there has been probably about $10 billion in new private construction of mid-rise and high rise buildings on the other side of Woodall Rodgers from downtown Dallas, which made it imperative to try and connect the two districts. And development there has been up to the edge of the sunken freeway and has been more intense. Downtown Dallas also severely lacks green space of any sort, which is why the deck is going to be a park and not something else. People are hoping that the park will help make the connection a la what Jane Jacobs prescribes, but I have my doubts. Summers and damn hot, and Dallas downtown and uptown is well stocked with parking spaces, so I don't expect people to suddenly be strolling in this park as so many expect. It will still provide some sorely needed iconic and public space downtown for things like public concerts and events, a meeting spot, etc. And it will certainly help make the walk easier for those who decide to walk.
If you are suggesting that the eastern portion of Vine St Expwy be decked in order to provide a seamless connection between Old City and Northern Liberties, again, that's a good idea on paper and I believe some would love for that to happen. But I doubt there is a severe need for it to happen; Northern Liberties isn't quite butting on the edge of Old City, and Old City (and Chinatown) itself make it difficult on developers to build anything new and of high density close to them. The immediate area north of Vine St, east of Broad-- the "Loft District"-- could benefit immensely if Vine St is decked over there and turned into a nice new green space, but the nature of buildings to the south of Vine St just south of Loft District is mostly institutional in nature and some 9-to-5 offices so there again, no natural and immediate need is present.
Most importantly, the Woodall Rodgers Deck and the park on top of the deck are, I believe, for the most part privately funded by all the building owners next to it and by other Dallas area billionaires who want to stamp their name on such public works in Dallas. I doubt anybody in Philly can cough up that kind of money for the decking of the Vine St, or of the Delaware Ave/I-95 between Old City and Delaware River waterfront/Penn's Landing....which is where there is also already a small deck park built, long before the Woodall Rodgers park seemingly made deck parks look sexy.
edit to add: Probably the quickest (and biggest?) bang for the buck in Philly might be if they decked the Vine from, say, Broad St west to 17th St. The surface area to be decked is small and thus doable for small amount. And the area north and south of Vine between Broad and 17th is quite developed though there are some parking lots (which could find new development!), and a deck park might add the vibrant public space needed to spur development further north. I would even suggest decking as far east as 13th St, but the stretch between 13th and Broad is a bit long...but if it could be done, that damn north side of COnvention Center could up to Vine St could finally see some big time private development and end up leveraging public spending better. It could also spur the faster renewal of the Loft District and bring more residents to that neighborhood... and finally do the sort of infill private development that has somehow sorely been lacking in Philly even as more far flung areas have seen redevelopment.
Yeah, I like the Vine St Expressway decking idea. But only in small portions that are not too expensive, and that are provide more immediate return on investment in the form of private development.