Neighboring Development, Distant Goals: Competing Visions for Philadelphia’s Chinatown North/Callowhill in Light of the Reading Viaduct Redevelopment
Urban Studies and Planning
Philadelphia’s Chinatown has had a long history of land loss. Projects like the Vine Street Expressway and Philadelphia Convention Center have created contention between Chinatown and outside developers. Most recently, this conflict has come to a head over the proposed redevelopment of the Reading Viaduct, an abandoned rail viaduct from Philadelphia’s industrial age. Friends of the Rail Park, a non-profit organization, seeks to transform it into an elevated park, and Phase 1 of the project is located in Chinatown North/Callowhill. This proposal has brought back old hard feelings and created a debate over the true identity of the neighborhood. Rail park proponents want to see a diverse community unified around a modern and high-end park, while Chinatown advocates wants to see an increase in affordable housing and community space. Despite the vast differences in these visions, both sides are poised to make them a reality; the Rail Park is in its final round of fundraising, and Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, a community development corporation in Chinatown, is set to break ground on a mixed-income residential and recreational space this June. With both sides working separately but effectively to realize their visions, development in Chinatown North/Callowhill complicates the traditional gentrification narrative and serves as an example of development without displacement.