Here are all the city parks attempting to copy New York's High Line

Your very own High Line, also known as your back garden. Image: Fluteflute at Wikimedia Commons.

New York has an elevated park, and everyone else is jealous. In 2014, the final section of the city's High Line opened to the public: 1.45 miles worth of disused train track, transformed into a park and dotted with cafes and other fun outdoorsy things.

The High Line has been a success. Such a success, in fact, that scores of plans from all over the world have been proposed under the tag “the next High Line” – even those that are, basically, just a park that happens to be located somewhere vaguely near a train line. 

To track the spread of this trend, we’ve taken on the gargantuan task of logging these projects in full. You're welcome. We'll keep this post updated as more, inevitably, emerge.

And if you spot any that we've missed? Drop us a line

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Click for a larger image. Credit: Fletcher Priest Architects.

The plan: Loathe to be outdone by our friends across the Atlantic, London’s city government held a competition to design “London’s High Line”. This design won, with its idyllic vision of, er, a "mushroom-strewn subterranean walkway" through disused Royal Mail tunnels.

Will it actually happen? Nope. The competitions organisers said they just wanted to generate debate.

Any similarity to the actual High Line? Not really. Walking through a dimly-lit row of mushrooms is definitely not the same as to strolling through a lovely park.

London’s High Line

Click for a larger image. Credit: What if: projects.

The plan: Yes, another one. This one's a nature walk atop the Limehouse Curve viaduct in Tower Hamlets.

Will it actually happen? The project’s architects haven’t found any funding yet, though Tower Hamlets council have said they support the idea (not with cash, mind).

Any similarities to the original High Line? The concept’s the same, but at only 120m this version would be much shorter. More of a High Dot.

The Peckham Coal Line

Click for a larger image. Credit: Peckham Coal Line.

The plan: A High Line for London. Because no one’s thought of that already. This one's on a stretch of disused track, which lies alongside a stretch of very much used track.

Will it actually happen? Again, enthusiasm but no money. The architect, who designed the project at university, plans to ask National Rail for a lease later this year and then find sponsors.

Any similarities to the original High Line? Probably the only London-based proposal deserving of the comparison  – it’s a 1km long park on a train line.

The Underline

Click for a larger image. Credit: Gensler.

The plan: Turn abandoned tube tunnels into bike lanes, pedesrian walkways, and areas for cafes and businesses. 

Will it actually happen? The plan won Best Conceptual Project at the London Planning Awards, but there's no costed plan as yet. 

Any similarity to the actual High Line? Like the High Line, it would put a large, unused rail network to good use - but it's underground, so overall not that similar.

The Garden Bridge

 

Click for a larger image. Credit: Heatherwick Studio.

The planA foliage-covered bridge over the Thames betwen Temple and the South Bank. It will be closed to cyclists, closed at night, and closed whenever the Garden Bridge trust fancies holding a fundraising event.

Will it actually happen? The project's currently making its way through the upper echelons of City Hall, but it seems likely. 

Any similarities to the original High Line? It's a long, thin park, but it misses out the best aspect of the High Line: reuse of existing, abandoned infrastructure. Instead, they're building a brand new £175m bridge. 

The Manchester Maze

Click for a larger image. Credit: Barton Willmore.

The plan: A park with cafés,  public art and a community garden atop a run of bridges and embankments between Manchester and Salford.

Will it actually happen? The Manchester Evening News quotes loads of experts who say it's a good idea, but then asked City Hall, who said they "don't have the money" unless private investment steps in. 

Any similarities to the original High Line?  Yep – it's a multi-use park on disused industrial infrastructure. Good work, Manchester.

The Flyover Liverpool 

 

Click for a larger image. Credit: Friends of the Flyover.

The plan: Turn a concrete flyover network in central Liverpool into a walkway, park and .

Will it actually happen? The city already has plans to remove traffic from the flyover roads, and Friends of the Flyover, the proposers, have raised their goal of £40,000 through crowdfunding website Spacehive. The flyover project would be much cheaper than demolishing the roads, so there's a good chance the city council will agree. 

Any similarities to the original High Line?  It's elevated, but not on train infrastructure. Halfway there.

h/t Andrew Foulkes. 

The Holbeck Highline

Click for a larger image. Credit: Holbeck Highline.

The plan: To turn a Leeds viaduct into a walking and cycle path. This was actually proposed back in the 90s, but plans were dropped due to lack of funding. Now, a group of locals are hoping to do it themselves.

Will it actually happen? The group are waiting to hear back from the planners behind HS2 on whether the viaduct line will be needed for the new line. If not, they'll crack on with negotiations with Network Rail. 

Any similarities to the original High Line?  It's a very close fit - a walking and cycle path on elevated ex-train infrastructure. 

h/t Peter Skalski.

Leith Walk

 

Click for a larger image. Credit: Biomorphis.

The plan: A half kilometre of bike paths and gardens to connect up cycle routes in the Edinburgh district of Leith. The path would be built using reclaimed railway sleepers.  

Will it actually happen? A cost analysis in December 2014 showed that the project would cost around £4.8 m - the jury's out on whether local government will ever cough up the money. 

Any similarities to the original High Line?  It's much shorter, but is elevated and would create a new route through the city. 

The Lowline

Click for a larger image. Credit: Lowline.

The plan: Greedy New Yorkers now want another high-concept park, this time in an empty streetcar terminal under the Lower East Side. 

Will it actually happen? It has some high-profile fans, including Spike Jonze and Lena Dunham, but it still needs funding. The plan also relies on “solar collectors”, which funnel sunlight underground and sound both complicated and expensive. 

Any similarities to the original High Line?  No. It is literally the opposite of the High Line. 

The QueensWay

Click for a larger image. Credit: QueensWay.

The plan: A park on an abandoned 3.5 mile stretch of the Long Island Railroad in Queens.

Will it actually happen? Er, probably not. According to NBC, the park’s organisers have only raised one per cent of the money needed, and Mayor Bill de Blasio hasn’t so far stepped forward in support of the project.

Any similarities to the original High Line? Its supporters call it “the High Line on steroids” – it’s twice as long, and seven times as large. So if it went ahead, this would basically be High Line 2: The Outer Boroughs' Revenge.

The Harlem Promenade

Click for a larger image. Credit: Harlem Promenade group.

The plan: Affordable housing and green space on abandoned Amtrak rail lines in Harlem.

Will it actually happen? Organisers want to raise the cash by selling the City-owned "air rights” alongside the tracks to developers hoping to build tall buildings.  Which does sound like it could actually work.

Any similarities to the original High Line? Yes, it's a park on an abandoned – oh, you know the drill by now. The affordable housing bit is a nice addition, though. 

A garden on the roof of JFK Airport

Click for a larger image. Credit: JetBlue.

The plan: A garden on the roof of the airport’s $200m Terminal 5 extension.

Will it actually happen? It’s allegedly opening in early 2015.  

Any similarities to the original High Line? The architect said the roof would be “a lot like the High Line, but not so industrial”. Mostly, though it sounds an awful lot like a normal roof garden.  

The 11th Street Bridge

Click for a larger image. Credit: OLIN/OMA.

The plan: A park on an abandoned highway bridge in Washington D.C. including a public plaza, amphitheatre, rain gardens (?) and waterfalls (!).  

Will it actually happen? Yes – the project will be funded by the district government and a local nonprofit,   

Any similarities to the original High Line? It’s a park on a bridge. Please, can we just leave it at that.  

The Underline

Click for a larger image. Credit: The Underline/Anna Baez.

The Plan: A park under a ten-mile stretch of elevated metro track in Miami.

Will it actually happen? The city government is consulting with developers, and so it seems likely that it will get built.

Any similarities to the original High Line? Granted, it follows a transport route, but in the end this is just a normal park on the ground.

The Edmonton Freezeway 

 

Click for a larger image. Credit: Matt Gibbs.

The PlanA seven mile ice skating path in the Canadian city of Edmonton, built on disused rail tracks. 

Will it actually happen?  One city councillor called it the stupidest idea they'd heard in 30 years, so it seems unlikely. As plans go, though, this one would be pretty cheap and could double up as cycle paths in summer. 

Any similarities to the original High Line? It's a cross between an ice rink and a cycle lane. So no. 

The Goods Line

Click for a larger image. Credit: Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority.

The PlanTo convert unused goods rail lines in Sydney, Australia into public spaces.

Will it actually happen? Construction on the project began in March 2014, and it was actually meant to complete at the same time as Frank Gehry's paper bag-esque Dr Chau Chak Wing at Sydney's University of Technology (just visible to the left in the image above). The city's also looking into extending the scheme further 

Any similarities to the original High Line? As a public space atop unused elevated rail infrastructure, it's probably the closest of the lot - especially as it is actually being built.

h/t Robbie Moore.

Minhocão

Minhocão on a car-free day. Click for a larger image. Credit: Yvone Delpoio at Flickr.

The Plan: To turn a stretch of Sao Paolo’s elevated motorway (known as the Minhocão, or “Big Worm”) into an elevated park. It’s already closed on Sundays and at night, and locals use it for exercise and cultural events while it’s shut.

Will it actually happen? The plan first surfaced in 1987, but the success of New York’s version has brought it back onto the agenda. Politicians are currently divided between demolishing the highway altogether or turning it into a public space.

Any similarities to the original High Line? It was proposed long before the High Line and, to be honest, it actually sounds way better – it’s accessible from many densely-packed neighbourhoods and could act as a kind of Central Park for the city.

Seoul’s elevated pedestrian park

Click for a larger image. Credit: Seoul Metropolitan Government.

The plan: The South Korean city is planning to turn a major road in the business district into a 1km long park.

Will it actually happen? Yep – the city government’s already drawn up the plans, and have an excellent record on getting rid of noisy elevated highways (they’ve demolished around 15 since 2002).

Any similarities to the original High Line? It’s pretty similar, but has the added benefit that they’re closing a fully operational road to do it, rather than waiting for it to be closed for other reasons. Good on you, Seoul.

Rome's High Line

The plan: An elevated park and walkway on a mile of unfinished elevated tram track about 45 minutes drive from Rome's centre. 

Will it actually happen? It's already underway. Under the eye of starchitect Renzo Piano, junior architects have cleared rubbish out of the abandoned tram station and transformed it into a community space. Now, they're hoping for around $600,000 from City Hall to spruce up the track itself. 

Any similarities to the original High Line? It's a park on unfinished infrastructure, rather than old and disused track, but in Rome this is particularly apt: the city, especially at its edges, is littered with unfinished public projects. 

Santiago's Origami High Line

Click for a larger image. Credit: Architects of Invention.


The plan: This is a proposal for a new public plaza in Santiago, capital of Chile. It's basically a big red zigzag which would be used as a raised walkway over a park.

Will it actually happen? It was submitted as part of a design competition for the plaza, so its fate is in the city government's hands. 

Any similarities to the original High Line? It will be purpose built, for a start, which goes against one of the High Line's main purposes: to re-use old infrastructure. Also, call us harsh, but this design seems largely pointless: why do you need a walkway bridge over some other walkways? 

 

Spotted any others? Drop us a line

 
 
 
 

Jane Jacobs and Le Corbusier would agree on one thing: we need more social housing

Unite d’Habitation, Marseille. Image: Iantomferry/Wikimedia Commons.

Much has been written in CityMetric and beyond about the urban planning debates of the 1950s and ‘60s, that came to be characterised as a battle between master-planning and preservation. One side of the debate was personified by the father of modernist architecture, Le Corbusier, whilst the counter-argument was advanced by writer and journalist Jane Jacobs.

But when it comes to London’s housing crisis, aren’t there a few things that these two would actually agree on?

Jane Jacobs’ writing about the organic nature of self-organising communities, demonstrated, in her words, by the “intricate sidewalk ballet” of inner city neighbourhoods, should be required reading for anyone interested in how cities function. But today, Jacobs is increasingly invoked in attempts to oppose new developments of any kind. Her role in conceiving Manhattan’s West Village Houses, a low cost rented housing scheme built through New York State’s Mitchell-Lama Program, is unfortunately much less well known. It’s been suggested that if Jacobs were around today, she’d be working with New York’s housing activists. When her seminal work The Death and Life of Great American Cities was written, there were almost 2 million rent-controlled or rent-stabilised apartments in New York City; nowadays, there are fewer than half that number.

Le Corbusier, on the other hand, is too often blamed for drab high-rise blocks. But regardless of how well his followers across Europe interpreted his ideas, Le Corbusier’s vision for cities was about high quality residential blocks that also contained shops and leisure amenities and were surrounded by parkland – the original mixed use development if you like. His most famous building, Marseille’s Unite d’Habitation, consisted of 337 apartments with views of the mountains and the sea together with shops, a restaurant and a nursery school. The building was originally intended to be public housing, but the French government eventually sold off the flats to recoup costs. Alton West Estate in Roehampton and Park Hill in Sheffield are just some of the examples of Le Corbusier’s influence on the design of post-war council housing here in the UK.

Building homes for a serious business in post-war Britain. Under Attlee’s 1945 Labour Government, 700,000 new council homes were completed. In 1952, the largest architectural practice in the World was at London County Council, with 1,577 staff including 350 professional architects and trainees. These were the days of consensus, and very quickly Tory governments were actually competing with Labour governments about who could built the most council homes.

Some of the council homes built post-war have stood the test of time better than others. But what’s not in doubt is that building council homes on such a scale immeasurably changed the lives of so many families in desperate need of a decent, secure and affordable home. And so many of the post-war modernist high-rise blocks so despised by Jacobs quickly took on the organic self-organising traits that she held in such high regard and have become some of the most enduring and closely-knit communities in London.

Fast forward to 2019 and Right To Buy continues to decimate council housing stock, but perversely home ownership seems more out of reach than ever for so many. An entire generation is being forced to embrace long term private ting in a country that has some weakest protections for private tenants in Europe. Meanwhile, government spending on building new homes fell from £11.4bn in 2009 to just £5.3bn in 2015 – from 0.7 per cent to 0.2 per cent of GDP – and since then, the housing minister’s desk has been occupied by no fewer than six people.


So what would a comprehensive drive for new council and social housing on the scale of the 1945 government’s efforts look like in 2019?

Lubetkin, the architect responsible for Islington’s Spa Green Estate and Bevin Court, summed up the spirit of post-war council home building with his maxim that “nothing is too good for ordinary people”. It’s a vision that we’re trying to recreate through our own council home building programme in Islington.

One of the best opportunities for small council home building schemes is to expand upon existing communities. The vast majority of Islington’s new council housing takes the form of infill, construction on existing estates; in unloved spaces, in old garages, and in old undercrofts. These projects often involve landscaping and new amenities to enhance rather than reinvent local communities. We have built community centres and even rebuilt a library as part of council housing schemes. One Tenants’ and Residents’ Association had an idea for a new specialist over 55s block for the older residents of the estate who wanted to stay in their community.

But there’s a place for large-scale place making as well. When the Ministry of Justice closed Holloway Prison and announced that the site would be sold, Islington Council published a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) on the site. We had one aim – to send a clear signal to the market that anyone who was looking at buying the site needed to be aware of their planning obligations. Most importantly, any development on the site needed to include at least 50 per cent genuinely affordable homes. The speculation around the site came to an end on 8 March this year when Peabody Housing Association announced that it had bought it. It has committed to going well above and beyond our planning requirements, by making 600 out of a total 1000 homes genuinely affordable homes, including 420 homes for social rent. We need to see more detail on what they are proposing but this is potentially brilliant for the borough. A local grassroots group, Community Plan for Holloway, have been instrumental in ensuring that the community’s voice is heard since the site was sold.

To recreate the scale of the massive post-war council home building programmes would require a Jane Jacobs inspired level of community activism combined with the architectural idealism of Le Corbusier. But it would also need the political will from central government to help local authorities get council housing built. And that, sadly, feels as far away as ever.

Diarmaid Ward is a Labour councillor and the executive member for housing & development at the London Borough of Islington.