Rail Park Community Development Glossary

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Friends of the Rail Park





Organization Overview:

The Rail Park is a vision to transform the historic Reading Railway into a linear park and pathway that will enrich the health, culture, and ecology of the city, and create inclusive opportunities for Philadelphians. This vision extends three miles, traversing above and below the streets of ten distinct Philadelphia neighborhoods, connecting Northern Liberties to Brewerytown.

Through cross sector collaboration between the City of Philadelphia, Center City District, Friends of the Rail Park, and philanthropic partners, Phase One of the Rail Park, a quarter mile stretch of elevated viaduct located in Chinatown and Callowhill, opened in 2018. Today, the park is managed by the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation, with Friends of the Rail Park functioning as stewards and programmatic partners for Phase One, and advocates driving the vision and execution of future phases of the park.

Formally incorporated in 2013, FRP was a volunteer-led organization until 2018, when it added its first professional staff. Today, FRP remains a small but growing team, with a full time staff of three, a board of directors, and several volunteer committees.

Our mission is to build bold, transformative, and inclusive public space that connects Philadelphia’s residents and visitors to the city and each other.

On the web: therailpark.org
Instagram: @therailpark

Project Name:

Rail Park Community Development Glossary
Project Type: 
Communications Plan

Project Overview:

From initial vision to ribbon cutting, large-scale infrastructure projects like the Rail Park take a long time to complete, with many different actors and decision makers, industry jargon, and complicated or opaque steps to the development process along the way. This process and the policy environment in which it takes place can often cause feelings of projects “happening to” instead of being “developed with” community and stakeholders.

The proposed project, the Rail Park Community Development Glossary (final name TBD), is a small, but very helpful step, towards demystifying this process. Working in collaboration with FRP staff and designers, the student(s) working on this project will be tasked with the following:

+ Identifying and selecting at least ten terms, concepts, or policies relevant to the development of the Rail Park. For example: infrastructure reuse project, value capture finance, land bank, TIF, RCO, highest and best use, storm water mitigation, imminent domain, Act. 135 petition, or answering the question "how long does the development process take, and why?" etc.

+ Adapting selected terms or policies for the context of Philadelphia’s policy and development framework, where necessary

+ “Translating” the selected terms or policies for the general public, as well as adding information, where appropriate, on critical decision/choice points, potential outcomes and impacts etc.

+Translating this information into mandarin and spanish (FRP staff can connect students to translators if necessary)

+ Developing a non-traditional format, and a plan for public dissemination of this information via online and printed materials. This could be in the form of collectable trading cards, a newspaper, tiktok vidos, a board game etc. FRP is open to new ideas!

During the process of selecting topics, FRP will make resources from the High Line Network and our recent work with HLN/Urban Institute on an equitable impact framework for the Rail parkavailable to the student(s).

Context for this project:

FRP has engaged a firm to complete a cost estimate and feasibility study (estimated completion December 2021), which will serve as a roadmap for phased development and focus FRP’s efforts on the next phase of the park. This work dovetails with FRP’s digital cultural asset mapping and archiving project, the Rail Park Time Capsule (underway, estimated public website launch November 2021).

Complementing the feasibility study and the cultural asset mapping, FRP will launch the Rail Park Equitable Development Agenda & Community Toolkit planning process late Winter/Spring 2022. This process is intended to develop a comprehensive community-driven agenda that will determine not only how Philadelphians access future phases of the park, and the access the benefits of this infrastructure investment.

This is an exciting time for the Rail Park, and we foresee one of our biggest challenges in the year ahead from a community development perspective as communicating a lot of complex information to our various stakeholders and communities in ways that speak to their needs, interests, and capacity for involvement. We see this project as complementary to this work, helping FRP to develop a foundation for community engagement, consent, and meaningful participation in the development of the Rail Park. And, to do it in a generative and playful way.

Deliverable(s): An ideal set of deliverables would include the following:

+ At least 10 “translated” policies or relevant infrastructure development terms, with an introduction and conclusion
+ Bibliography or recommended reading list that can be shared with the Rail Park’s general audience
+ Proposal and outline for a creative and engaging format in which to distribute materials on the Rail Park website, social media, and in print
+ Manuscripts for any and all digital and printed materials
+ A plan, including schedule, for a social media and accompanying e-newsletter campaign
+ All materials should also be translated into mandarin and spanish, the two other languages spoken most frequently in the Rail Park footprint.

Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326