Rail Goes Green: New York's High Line Park

May 5, 2014 15 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The High Line is a popular one mile, elevated linear park in Manhattan's Meatpacking District. Originally, a part of New York Central Railroad's West Side Improvement Project, the former rail line opened to trains in 1934. The last train to operate on this section of old track was operated by Conrail in 1980.

Slated for demolition during the 1990s, a non-profit group known as the Friends of the High Line was formed to advocate for its preservation and reuse as an elevated greenway similar to the Promenade Plantée in Paris. Strong community support led to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City government committing $50 million to make the High Line a reality.

The southernmost section of the High Line opened as a city park on June 8, 2009. The second section opened to the public on June 7, 2011. A third portion of the former rail line is owned by Jacksonville-based CSX Transportation, which agreed in principle to donate it to the city in 2011.

The High Line has had an extraordinary impact on economic development in the immediate vicinty. According to a 2011 Huff Post article, the world class park's first phase had generated $2 billion in private investment and 12,000 new jobs, including 8,000 new construction jobs.

Naturally, other cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis now have plans of their own to construct similar projects in their communities. In Jacksonville, we have our own version of an abandoned rail corridor turned linear park, in the form of the S-Line Urban Greenway. However, due to a lack of coordinated planning and property land use integration, the economic results have not been the same.

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