Rail Park Value Capture Mechanism Analysis

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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.

FRIENDS OF THE RAIL PARK MISSION: 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 Value Capture Mechanism Analysis
Project Type: 
Policy Analysis

Project Overview:

In 2020, Rail Park’s partners, Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, Sojourner Consulting and PolicyLink released “Chinatown Future Histories: Public Spaces and Equitable Development in Philadelphia Chinatown.” The report summarizes over a year of community engagement and discussion in Chinatown focused on equitable access to parks and public space and includes a series of recommendations and a list of potential value capture strategies pertinent to Phase One of the Rail Park and the development of future phases. (Available here:

​​https://urldefense.com/v3/__https://chinatown-pcdc.org/chinatown-future-...$ ).

For this project, Friends of the Rail Park would like to work with a student to advance the work started by the Future Histories report with a specific focus on value capture strategies for infrastructure reuse projects (ie the Rail Park), specifically the policy mechanisms inventoried in Appendix 1. Our goal for this project is to: 

  • Select 1-3 value capture strategies from the list of mechanisms in the Future Histories report appendix (or consider others not listed in the appendix) that could be a fit for the Rail Park.
  • Analyze their feasibility and the appropriate scale of intervention within the local context of Philadelphia
  • Identify the necessary stakeholders, partners, or other actors and influencers necessary to advancing these mechanisms
  • Evaluate the capacity of the aforementioned potential stakeholders to partner with Friends of the Rail Park to advance this work. Criteria for “capacity” should include at minimum an evaluation of capacity, mission/values alignment with FRP, and their interest/availability in pursuing this work.

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 blueprint/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 community 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 in 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, but, perhaps more importantly, access the benefits of this infrastructure investment.

We hope that this work, including the proposed policy analysis project, will help FRP better understand from a comprehensive community development perspective, what it has direct control over (i.e. “How do we build and steward an equitable organization and park?”) ; what it must do in partnership (i.e. “How do we work with partners to contribute to more equitable neighborhoods and communities?” or “How can we mitigate the impacts of development in the neighborhoods and communities the park touches?”); and what it can contribute to policy- or systems-level change (i.e. “How can FRP and the Rail Park influence or contribute to a more equitable Philadelphia and region”?).

An ideal set of deliverables would include:

      + 1-2 page briefs on each of the three recommended value capture
      mechanisms. Briefs should include the following information;
       - Why was it selected?
       - How does it work?
       - What are the power/decision making systems behind this mechanism? (Who benefits? Who pays? Who decides?)
       - At what scale does the mechanism work best?
       - Where else has it been used? Did it work?
       - References

      + Capacity Assessment of potential partners (mission/vision  alignment, desire/interest, capacity to partner/engage in the work)
       - Develop the questionnaire
       - Refined list of stakeholders (generated with assistance from FRP staff) with contact information
       - Conduct interviews
       - Collect and transcribe/edit interviews into an organized docket

Fels Institute of Government

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

(215) 898-7326