Reusing Infrastructure: Mobility, Open Space, and Development Opportunities
Once chronically overlooked, antiquated transportation infrastructure and under-utilized industrial corridors have come to be regarded as opportunities in several forward-thinking cities. The most visible of these instances is the High Line—an aerial greenway on the West Side of Manhattan that repurposes a section of the former New York Central Railroad. The High Line's success has garnered a lot of attention and spawned a number of projects in other cities, but it is not the first instance of re-using infrastructure, and nor is it without criticism. Rather, the Highline exists as an outstanding example in a continuum of projects throughout time that reuse infrastructure in different ways to varying degrees of success. As we continue to adapt our cities in this era of increasing urbanization, we must look to the High Line and other examples with a critical eye—replicating the good and improving upon shortcomings. Reusing Infrastructure is an ongoing research effort by Sasaki principal Jason Hellendrung, who will present the latest progression of his work at the 2012 ASLA Annual Meeting in Phoenix this weekend. In his research, Jason seeks to determine how projects that reuse infrastructure can not only beautify our cities and inspire our citizens, but also provide critical value in terms of open space, transit and mobility, and development opportunities.
Projects looking to emulate the High Line's success include the Bloomingdale Trail in Chicago, the Reading Viaduct in Philadelphia, the Sixth Street Embankment in Jersey City, and the Iron Horse Trestle in St. Louis. Similarly, a number of park spaces have been created on railroads, railroad stations, or rail yards, like Railroad Park in Birmingham, Commons Park and the Union Station Neighborhood in Denver, and Santa Fe Railyard Park in New Mexico. In all of these examples, the primary focus of these projects is the creation of new open space. In some instances, neighborhood development has been an accompanying goal— but not necessarily economic development. Of the elevated railroad reuse projects, the Bloomingdale Trail is one of the first examples of layering mobility as a primary goal, with a multipurpose path being developed for bicycling and other forms of mobility.
Reusing Infrastructure is focused on the greater opportunity of repurposing these rail corridors and infrastructure for improved mobility and transportation, creation of new open space, and economic revitalization and neighborhood development of the existing and former industrial properties lining these corridors. Jason's research explores three premier initiatives in the country that address these issues though the planning and design of projects reusing infrastructure: the Atlanta BeltLine, the Orange Line corridor in Los Angeles, the Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard in Pittsburgh. A variety of performance metrics—including congestion mitigation from removing cars from the road, environmental benefits from air quality improvements, and economic development through the creation of new transit-oriented development—help inform Jason's work.