The High Line is a nearly one and a half mile long park in New York City built on an abandoned elevated railway on the west side of Manhattan. The path is wonderful for a stroll, and has beautiful gardens designed by Piet Oudolf as well as art installations. The park has become a tourist attraction and is also popular with residents, in fact around 5 million people visit the High Line annually and the development has encouraged property values to rise in the surrounding area.
The success of the High Line has inspired other cities around the world to develop similar projects. We love these urban renewal ideas and hope to visit them on our future travels. Let’s take a look at a few of these innovative projects!
The Lines of Life project in Singapore is a 15 mile long park that would stretch across the island incorporating a cycle route, gardens, climbing walls, nature areas and walking paths. The rail line goes from Tanjong Pagar Railway Station in the south to Woodlands Checkpoint in the north and includes 122 access points and 21 modular platforms with amenities such as benches, fountains, cafes, movie screening areas and other facilities.
Singapore is already home to some of the most unique and spectacular gardens in the world, the Gardens by the Bay.
The Bloomingdale Trail Park is also known as The 606. This project in Chicago is similar to New York’s high line in that it was an elevated rail track that has now converted into a city park.
The freight train tracks run through four Chicago neighborhoods which are connected by a multi-use path for biking, running and strolling. The trail also incorporates existing city parks and provide a place for area residents to relax, enjoy the fresh air and get views over the city streets. Local artists will also contribute temporary and permanent art installations and sculptures along the Bloomingdale Trail.
Construction of The 606 began in August 2013 and the first phase of the park opened in the summer of 2015.
I recently visited The 606 and walked much of its length. The landscaping is lovely and on the brisk fall days there were plenty of people out for a stroll with their kids, going on a run, or just using the path to get from place to place.
Visiting Chicago? Escape into nature at nearby Starved Rock State Park. It’s gorgeous!
The Seoul Skygarden, also known as Seoullo 7017 project is situated on an unused overpass in the Korean metropolis. The park is an elevated walkway with shops, libraries and cafes connecting the rail station and Namdaemun market. Gardens have been planted all along the 938 meter long overpass with more than 24,000 trees, shrubs and flowers. The designers have augmented the rectilinear shape of the overpass with lots of circular features and then softened them with plants.
The project, led by Rotterdam architecture firm MVRDV, was completed in 2017. So far it has received mostly positive reviews.
London’s Vauxhall was once known for its pleasure gardens. And soon it will be home to new gardens and a path inspired by a cabinet of curiosities. The Vauxhall neighborhood is intersected by 12 railway arches which will be reinvigorated by several architecture firms and creative agencies.
The planned route for the The Promenade of Curiosities will connect these railway bridges and the south bank of the Thames. The design by Erect Architecture and J & L Gibbons joins existing parks and sights in the area.
London is a wonderful city to wander. Take a look at some of our favorite pretty places in London.
The Hofplein line was the first electric railway in the Netherlands, but was discontinued in 2009 and the elevated tracks were abandoned. In the past few years, Rotterdam has redeveloped the abandoned area by opening the spaces under the tracks (“hofbogen”) to local businesses like a restaurant and coffee house. Plans are currently underway to construct a public space and park on the roof of the tracks at Hofplein. Businesses and buildings along the route will be heated by waste heat from industry, saving energy at the same time as creating a new vibrant space for the community.
Rotterdam is super cool. Here are some things to do in Rotterdam after you check out the Hofplein.
If you’ve visited Los Angeles you probably know it’s the land of cars and freeways. The Park 101 project aims to change that by creating park spaces over an existing highway in the heart of the downtown Los Angeles. The 101 freeway cuts through the downtown area creating an eyesore and making walking in the neighborhood an unpleasant experience. The Park 101 idea is to “cap” the freeway, building wide bridges over the existing sunken highway which would then become parks and public gathering spaces. Downtown Los Angeles has undergone revitalization in recent years and the addition of parks and open spaces would benefit residents, workers and visitors in the area. The project is currently in early stages gathering funding and support. Other cities like Seattle and Tel Aviv are also considering similar freeway cap ideas, and several have already been built including Boston’s Greenway which has an amazing carousel.
As mentioned above, Israel plans to put a roof atop a busy highway to provide park for recreation including bike paths, walking trails and cafes. The proposed route would connect two existing parks creating a large green area. The roof will hopefully control the noise and air pollution that the highway currently create, making the city greener and more pleasant. The plans were approved last year by the city of Tel Aviv.
The Beltline is a redevelopment project that hopes to transform Atlanta, which is a city known for crazy traffic congestion. The plan is to construct a 22 mile route of multi-use trails and parks using disused railroad tracks. Streetcars will also be incorporated into the plan for a more sustainable public transit network.
The West Toronto Railpath is car-free, multi-use six and a half kilometer linear park that stretches from Toronto’s Junction neighborhood into the heart of the city. The unused rail corridor is being rehabilitated into a biologically diverse public park, bicycle and walking path. The project began construction in 2008 and is now in the next stage of expansion. The West Toronto Railpath is a rails-to-trails initiative. Toronto already has one of these projects with the nine kilometer Beltline Trail.
The Reading Viaduct in Philadelphia is being transformed into The Rail Park, three mile linear park and recreation path on a spur of the elevated freight and commuter train viaduct. Like the New York City High Line, The Rail Park also offers views of the Philadelphia skyline. For more images of the project, visit the designers’ site Studio Bryan Hanes.
The 11th Street Bridge Park will be built on the remnants of an old road across the Anacostia River between wards 6, 7 and 8 in Washington DC. There are plans to incorporate performance spaces, urban agriculture, and kayak launches. The bridge park will bring communities on opposite sides of the river together to enjoy the recreational opportunities, amenities and views. The pleasant park atmosphere will also encourage residents and visitors to walk or cycle across the river to explore new neighborhoods in the city.
When old steam engine train lines became obsolete in Paris, the abandoned routes became La Coulée Verte, a five kilometer long trail. The Coulee Verte, also known as Promenade Plantee, inspired New York City’s High Line. Shops are located in the arches of the former elevated railway and the elevated gardens and tree lined cycling paths provide views over the city. The western portion of the path is accessible to pedestrians while the eastern portion can be utilized by bicycles and pedestrians.
Coulee Verte is one of the projects similar to the High Line in NYC but it actually inspired the High Line designers.
Going to Paris? Here is a fun website that shares all of the city’s secrets.
After the huge success of the High Line, what’s next? Build a Lowline of course! The plan is build a park and in the old underground Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal on the Lower East Side of New York City. This project includes some innovative ideas to bring sunlight into the underground space to allow for plants and natural light. They plan to open the Lowline in 2021.
A section of old railway line connecting Camden Town and King’s Cross will be transformed into a public park space and new transit corridor called the Camden Highline. Funds were raised via crowdfunding campaign, and feasibility studies are currently underway.
The stunning waterside city of Sydney has its own plans to build a High Line park where a rail line was removed in the 1960s. Advocates cite Paris’ Coulee Verte and NYC’s High Line as inspiration for their project. Views of Sydney Harbour and the Opera House can be seen from this disused section of track along Lavender Bay.
Sydney already has a pedestrian and cycle path on an old railway called the Goods Line.
Staten Island wants to build its own public promenade along an abandoned section of elevated tracks. The MTA would like to use the forlorn route for a future light rail line but local advocates doubt that will happen, and would prefer to transform the viaduct into a much-needed local park called the Staten Island Skyway. The tracks pass through forested land and over neighborhoods, and could provide a transit corridor for locals.
San Francisco is known for its beautiful bay views and a new project hopes to maximize this. Building a park and walkway over an underground road, the Tunnel Tops project is designed by the same team as the NYC High Line. The project, to be completed in 2019, will offer play areas for kids, three view areas and landscaped walking paths. The 14 acre site is part of the larger Presido National Park which is a reclaimed Army base.
A bit of a different take on reclaiming old transit corridors, Berlin plans to transform the area under the elevated railway into two way bike path plus pedestrian zone. The proposed route would allow cyclists to be safely separated from automobile traffic as well as possibly protected from inclement weather by the over hanging tracks. The project is called RadBahn and follows along the Landwehr canal and through parks.
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