Just a week ago, we attended the public meeting for the revamped, $550-million 30th Street Station development, with Amtrak leading the charge for this long awaited and extremely necessary upgrade. But there is some other sweet transit-related development news afoot as well, this time from our local transit authority, SEPTA. Seemingly out of the blue, there appears to be an appetite to develop what has been known as the Cut – a below-grade pathway through the city that was originally meant to be a canal between the rivers, prior to a life as a rail line for well over a century. Back in 1992, the last train ran, the site was sold to SEPTA, and it has remained mostly an empty void (save for some parking) since then. A few years back, an extended vision for the nearby Rail Park utilized this cut, proposing to turn it into a linear park. Sadly, there had been no updates on any progress here since that dream seemingly died several years ago.

A recent view of The Cut, looking west from 18th Street

Recently though, we were alerted to a new Request for Information (RFI) issued by SEPTA. These new plans call for developers to provide high-level information about potential plans for (wait for it…) utilizing the air rights over the cut, between 16th and 20th Streets. This is wildly exciting news, as these four prime pieces of potential property make up well over 100K sqft of potential developable space. If you’re having a bit of a hard time visualizing the area, we get it. Why don’t we fly over to get a better understanding of what we’re working with.

TheCut-aerial Highlighted
An aerial of the neighborhood, with The Cut highlighted

This site totals 2.87 acres per documents and is smack dab in the middle of an area that has seen projects inject more residents into every corner of the neighborhood. One thing that is difficult to glean from the information is what the zoning would entail, as Atlas is a bit fuzzy on the specific parcels as they sit right now. There are several different zoning categories immediately adjacent to the former City Branch, so we would be willing to wager we see something permissive (our wager is CMX-4).

Matthias Baldwin Park and new development gives an idea of what could be

So, what will we see? Will Paul Levy and the Rail Park come swooping in with plans to expand the initial section of the public space? Will an intrepid entrepreneur pitch rapid transit to extend up into Brewerytown and beyond? Will we see something mixed-use, harkening to the projects that are happening close by? Our guess is the latter, as this area is just a ten-minute walk from Center City, while still being in the slightly sleepier Logan Square/Art Museum/Spring Garden general area.

But let’s not get too excited yet, as this is step one of many. Any submission (with is due quite soon!), would necessarily be very high-level, with plenty of future talks and changes assured at this point. Still though, imagining a series of high-rises where there was nothing but nothing definitely gets our skyscraper juices flowing. It will be extremely intriguing to see who throws their hat in the ring here, and what they might have in store.