With the collapse of Londons Garden Bridge dream, the pitfalls of urban renewal programmes are more apparent than ever. So how do you emulate Manhattans High Line without sparking gentrification or becoming your metropoli into Disney World?
Every city craves a High Line. When Joshua David and Robert Hammond first dreamed of turning a long-disused elevated railway track overgrown with weeds into a linear park for Manhattan, they could scarcely have imagined the working day about 10 years and more than $180 m later when fellow urbanists in Miami, Seoul, Toronto, London and Sydney would strive to replicate their projects phenomenal success.
Part of the High Lines allure lies in its seeming impossibility, says Adam Ganser, vice president of planning and intend at Friends of the High Line. It was so unlikely that the proposed project would happen that I think it provides some optimism around similar crazy conceptions in other metropolis around the world. The reality that it attracts five million visitors per year and an estimated $980 m( 756 m) in tax revenue is also able to have something to do with it.
But as major cities fall over each other to accommodate the relics of their industrial past into engines of tourism and property booms, the chorus of detractors is developing. The charges against the mini-High Lines of the world are numerous: racial segregation, gentrification, expenditure, ugliness and outright idiocy. Londons Garden Bridge project has just collapsed amid widespread opponent from the very population it hoped to titillate. Even Hammond whose remorse included setting up the High Line Network, a bloc of decorators and planners meant to help other High Line-like adaptive reuse programmes avoid his mistakes acknowledges the problems. We were from the community. We wanted to do it for the neighbourhood, he said in a recent interview. Ultimately, we failed.
So, how do you do it right?