The High Line, an elevated park built on abandoned train tracks in New York City, has proven to be a success since it opened last year. Though not yet fully completed, over 2 million people have visited the park to see the impressive transformation of an abandoned train track into a vibrant urban green space. Friends of the High Line, the non-profit group responsible for making the High Line a reality, originally found inspiration in Paris’ Promenade Plantee. (The Promenade was built in 1988 along an abandoned 19th century viaduct and connects the Bastille area to the eastern suburbs of Paris It was designed by Jacques Vergely (landscape architect) and Philippe Mathieux (architect).)
Now the High Line finds itself as the source of inspiration for other public officials and planners who have dreams of revitalizing forgotten parts of their own cities. In Chicago, Ben Halphand and the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail are raising funds to create a 3 mile long “rail trail” (twice the size of the High Line). In Philadelphia, the Reading Viaduct Project is working for the preservation and remediation of the Reading Viaduct as open green space and a linear elevated trail. In Jersey City, the Embankment Preservation Coalition seeks to convert the Harsimus Stem Embankment, an elevated stone structure that once carried seven tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad to the Hudson River Waterfront. The new trail would be the first in a planned network of walkable, bikeable greenways within the City of Jersey City.
What eyesore does your city have? Can you picture that trashed, vacant block as a bustling community garden? Can you reimagine that old lot (where the car dealership used to be) as a solar farm? Sometimes it’s hard to see the world with fresh eyes. We’re tired and rushed and usually just trying to make it through our “to do list” every day. But if you can make yourself slow down for just a minute, if you can take the time to wonder and daydream just a little bit, you might be surprised by the immense possibility that has surrounded your eyesore all along. Your eyesore might be a High Line some day.