The renovated but defunct Franklin Street Station in Reading will get temporary use as the set for a television show that begins filming its pilot this weekend.
Santo Marabella, president of Marabella Entertainment & Education Enterprises LLC, is the creator, writer and executive producer of “Franklin Street Station,” which centers on four Reading Railroad employees and a passenger who are stuck in the station waiting for the train to return.
Marabella said he was inspired to shoot the pilot in the 1929 train station after working as a producer for “This is Reading,” the multimedia performance piece created by two-time Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage that was performed there last July.
Nottage won a Pulitzer last year for her play, “Sweat,” about a group of factory workers in Reading.
“This is another example of how the arts can drive economic development,” Marabella said of shooting the pilot inside the Reading landmark.
Marabella, a professor of management at Moravian College and the former film commissioner and co-founder of ReadingFilm, said the people involved in the production spend money downtown, stay at local hotels and eat at local restaurants.
If the show gets picked up by network television or a streaming service, it would draw attention to Reading “in a positive way.”
Marabella said he was committed to hiring local people when possible.
“I’m really pleased to have the best people in Berks County work on this project,” he said. “Of the 12 actors, seven are local.”
Built in 1929, Franklin Street Station ran trains from Reading to Philadelphia until 1981. The station fell into disrepair until about seven years ago when the Berks Area Regional Transportation Authority began a $5 million renovation on the grand building.
The renovation was completed in 2015, but remained empty until “This is Reading” was performed there. Saucony Creek Brewing Co. will open in Franklin Street Station this summer.