By Caspar Lundsgaard-Hansen
The High Line is a linear public park in New York City. It was built on a section of a former elevated railroad line in in lower Manhattan and not only boasts stunning architecture and a rich plant life but also cultural attractions. But probably you have already heard about it, which is why I think it might be one of the most successful urban projects in recent years. But this is certainly not the only reason…
In fact, there are at least three aspects about the High Line that make it a ‘High Line’ for contemporary urbanism:
1) In 1999, two residents of lower Manhattan formed the non-profit ‘Frieds of the High Line’. The aim was to preserve the structure and to possibly reuse it as public open space. Five years later, after the project had gained a broad community support, city funding for the redevelopment arrived. In times of rising participation of locals in urban planning, the High Line hence seems to be a prime example for a successful grassroots movement.
2) The High Line park has been generating a strong real estate development in the areas along the former railroad tracks. In summer 2010, the New York Times observed that “real estate owners along the first High Line segment (…) said they were already starting to feel the park’s positive effects on real estate values.” One year later, the same newspaper again reported how the park “(…) has become both a symbol and a catalyst for an explosion of growth in the meatpacking district and the Chelsea neighborhood.” In this article, the author also shows that “the High Line’s first and second sections cost $153 million, but have generated an estimated $2 billion in new developments.”
3) The essential involvement of a grassroots movement and the estimated value in new developments are not the end of the story though. Moreover, what I would also consider to be highly valuable is the part the High Line could or can play in terms of branding New York City. Alas, I would not be surprised if you knew the High Line already, no matter if you have been to the city recently or not.
Not only is the new park a physical attraction for visitors from other parts of the city, the country or the world. It is also a symbol of our times. A time when ‘green’ becomes ‘gold’. A time when creativity and recycling of the old are among the most sought after strenghts in societies. In this regard, the High Line represents the characteristics contemporary cities desperatly try to achieve.
To conclude: Not bad for a project that started in 1999 in a former backyard of Manhattan. And not bad if you consider that the demolition of the structure might have cost more than the transformation into a ‘green kind of gold’. Whereas in the past a highway for cars might have been crucial for the development of a city, today it is a highway for pedestrians… or the like.