Gathering is essential to human connection.
A few years ago our company honed in on one mission; to transform abandoned space into something new again, and to do it with the input of multiple stakeholders, authentic design and incorporation of local creatives. Since then we have gone onto revitalize 300M square feet of space Nationwide. Our specialty has been in real estate, restaurants, hospitality and community-driven spaces. Something we have always dreamed of was to one day do it ourselves. To craft a space that could be helpful in creating a network of creatives that could experiment, play and enjoy more local business resources together.
We wanted to put skin in the game and apply everything we know about community, design and gathering into one placeAntoinette Marie Johnson
Introducing The Viaduct...
A secret garden hidden under the rail park at 10th & Hamilton Streets where we host community gatherings, three course dinners with farmers and popups from locally owned small businesses. It’s a creative playground, and a place for us to express our beliefs in sustainable urban farming, raising little chickens and sharing in a peaceful environment with others. We grow community here and we welcome activations for good causes.
Outdoor events, micro-gatherings, weddings, three course dinners, pop-up vintage and jewelry sales. We have chickens, garden patches and two shipping containers that rotate opportunities for small businesses to experiment with what sells well. During a time when retail and restaurants are questioning their future, this has been a fun lab to have small wins that may turn out to be bigger endeavors later…
When helped our client Craig Grossman brand buildings and the vision for Spring Arts back in 2016, we helped form a cohesive identity around “change” in the area. Then last year we made a commitment to put some skin in the game and create dynamic spaces ourselves. We started with our office and a hub for creatives on Hamilton Street, and then during the COVID isolation period this Spring we started creating our own secret garden under the Rail Park.
Our process is to gather as much input from the neighborhood as possible, so that whatever the new space is, it inhabits the ideas of people who might have had a vision for it too.
– Local business owners from Love City, Triple Bottom, Yards and Roy Pitz told us about the brewery landscape and what they needed.
– We invited people from the Rail Park, Mural Arts, and other groups who were already familiar with the identity shift around public space and art in Callowhill/Spring Arts/Loft District area to join in on the planning and ideation
– Our friends Darryl Gibson, owner of Cultured Hospitality who opened Bar Marmont and the Standard Hotel Miami, as well as acclaimed designer Danny Gonzalez, joined us for an exercise in “what would you do here if you had it all your way?”
The charette served as an interactive way to diversify our team’s perspective on creating a dynamic environment that would be useful to many.
While the world slowly began to reopen, we wanted to make our outdoor spot a safe space for people to enjoy and utilize to connect with each other. We began with a pop-up Maidencreek Co. Plant shop in honor of Mother’s Day. The store was such a hit that we sold out of nearly all products and continued to bring the neighborhood floral pop-ups throughout the early summer months.
As the Viaduct began to become successful we wanted to ensure that we were giving back to the community around us. We decided to partner with Brannon Johnson and her business BLJ Community Rowing, or as she calls it “a boathouse without walls.” BLJ is the only Black-owned and operated rowing organization in the country and is committed to providing access to the elite sport of rowing to nontraditional participants. By being the access point and teaching underserved communities how to use rowing as a vehicle to expand life options, BLJ is providing an opportunity for more choice. We have been donating a portion of our event proceeds to Brannon and BLJ to help her expand her reach and help her impact more people.
Programming during a Pandemic.
Our space was completed in March – just as the city shut down and went into quarantine. We watched as seemingly everyone around us canceled their events and put their lives on hold. Instead of taking a pause, we pivoted, hosting a series of ticketed online events live from the space that attracted attendees from as far away as Bangkok. We challenged ourselves to create engaging virtual programming such as a zero-waste mini-workshop with Simply Good Jars, and Clean PHL’s Zero Waste Program for Earth Day. “How to Grow Your Own Mushrooms,” with Food Hedge who provided attendees with kits to grow their own fungi. “The Makings of a Perfect Charcuterie” with Alimentari, where guests were sent a Cohere tote bag emblazoned with the phrase “Change Agent” that included local wines, cheese, and flowers sold by Di Bruno Bros. All events sold out. We teased our new space with the attendees even allowing the Lunch + Learn guests to virtually name one of the chickens each week.
We bought chickens during COVID
The one element we knew we needed to have in the space was chickens because they embody the immersive natural living experience throughout the Viaduct. We purchased six little baby chicks in March who lived in our office as construction in the space was underway. They quickly became everyone’s favorite coworkers. We envisioned family-style dinners for the neighborhood, nighttime fireside panels and gatherings, the space filled with a community of people, and our chickens.
It takes a Village
Once Philadelphia entered the green phase, we began to expand our programming to offer safe, social-distanced community dinners and wellness programming. We tapped into the best of the best in our network to partner with for events like yoga classes with Stacia Nero, a fresh poke ice bar with Ice Ice Philly, and live music with RADIOKISMET.
You can check out our full list of public events at the Viaduct or rent the space for a night to host a party of your own. Just reach out, and we’ll help you plan the perfect party. Beginning in the fall with the next phase of reemergence for the city in the green zone, we will open for more regular hours. Stay tuned on our Instagram page @viaductphl for all new events and information, or just come by and see us hanging out there with our chickens!