Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cities See the Other Side of the Tracks

The High Line park, built on an elevated railway trestle in Manhattan, has become both a symbol and a catalyst for an explosion of growth in the meatpacking district and the Chelsea neighborhood. 
Now cities around the country, including Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis, are working up plans to renovate their aging railroad trestles, tracks and railways for parkland. Cities with little public space are realizing they badly need more parks, and the High Line has taught that renovating an old railway can be the spark that helps improve a neighborhood and attract development.

The High Line’s first and second sections cost $153 million, but have generated an estimated $2 billion in new developments. In the five years since construction started on the High Line, 29 new projects have been built or are under way in the neighborhood, according to the New York City Department of City Planning. More than 2,500 new residential units, 1,000 hotel rooms and over 500,000 square feet of office and art gallery space have gone up.
The area around the park, sprinkled with small offices under 200,000 square feet, has become a draw for start-ups and creative companies.
Though plans in many cities have a long way to go before becoming reality, a point in favor of reuse is that it can be cheaper to renovate old rail structures than to tear them down. The Reading Viaduct, an old elevated railway line in Philadelphia, would cost $50 million to demolish versus $36 million to retrofit, according to the Center City District, a business improvement group. 

In Chicago, where a 2.65-mile elevated rail line slices through four residential areas, tearing down the line would be prohibitively costly. With 37 bridges and large earthen embankments, the Bloomingdale Trail, as it is now called, snakes east to west across Chicago and is simply too big to go.
As with other, similar rail lines around the country, passenger and freight trains have not operated on the Chicago line in at least 10 years. The only traffic most of these lines see is an occasional runner or bike rider, even though trespassing is usually forbidden.
The Bloomingdale Trail is moving forward after Rahm Emanuel, who made completing the trail one of his campaign promises, was elected mayor in February. Over the next year, design concepts and engineering work will get under way. The Bloomingdale Trail will allow bikes and dogs, interconnect with new and existing ground-level parks and cost $40 million to $75 million.
In St. Louis, plans are in the works to renovate a 2.1-mile elevated rail trestle and turn it into a park as part of a larger waterfront revitalization project. The Iron Horse Trestle, estimated to cost $50 million, does not have a timeline. Organizers hope to have the first one-mile phase completed in five years.
In October, Mike and Matt Pestronk pounced on a 10-story office tower next to the Philadelphia viaduct when it fell into foreclosure and bought it for $5 million. ... The developers plan to renovate the vacant office tower for $25 million and turn it into apartments.... The brothers are trying to improve the area and have done some “guerrilla improvements” to the viaduct, such as weeding and putting down plywood to cover holes, and installing artwork and live video projections on two sides of their building.  Plans for the viaduct are slowly moving ahead after nearly 10 years of grass-roots work.... As a first step, a small section of the trestle owned by a regional transportation authority would be redeveloped for $5.5 million.
Atlanta also hired Mr. Corner to help redevelop a 22-mile rail corridor encircling the city. In the next 25 years, Atlanta plans to add 1,300 acres of parks and green spaces, public transit and trails along the necklace, increasing Atlanta green space by nearly 40 percent. The project’s cost is put at $2.8 billion.
by Kristina Shevory
The New York Times
August 2, 2011

No comments:

Post a Comment