The High Line is a 2.33 km elevated linear park created on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line, in New York City. Its success is based on its reinterpretation of the infrastructure as public space. The High Line is inspired by the 4.8 km Promenade Plantee, a tree-lined walkway project in Paris completed in 1993. The High Line Park is built on the disused southern portion of the West Side Line running to the Lower West Side of Manhattan. It runs from Gansevoort Street - three blocks below 14th Street - in the Meatpacking District, through Chelsea, to the northern edge of the West Side Yard on 34th Street near the Javits Convention Center. Formerly, the West Side Line went as far south as a railroad terminal at Spring Street, just north of Canal Street. Most of the southern section was demolished in 1960, with another small portion being demolished in 1991.
Repurposing of the railway into an urban park began in 2006, with the first phase opening in 2009, and the second phase opening in 2011. The third and final phase officially opened to the public on September 21, 2014. A short stub above Tenth Avenue and 30th Street is still unopened as of September 2014, but will open by 2017, once the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project is complete. The project has spurred real estate development in the neighborhoods that lie along the line, and increased real estate values and prices along the route, the result of a "halo effect". As of September 2014, the park gets nearly 5 million visitors annually.
Proposal for repurposing
In 1999, the nonprofit organization Friends of the High Line was formed by Joshua David and Robert Hammond, residents of the neighborhood that the line ran through. They advocated for the line's preservation and reuse as public open space, so that it would become an elevated park or greenway, similar to the Promenade Plantee in Paris. The organization was initially formed as a small community group to advocate for the High Line's preservation and transformation at a time when the historic structure was under the threat of demolition during Rudy Giuliani's second mayoral term.
CSX Transportation, which owned the High Line, had given photographer Joel Sternfeld permission to photograph the line for a year. These photographs of the natural beauty of the meadow-like wildscape of the railway, discussed in an episode of the documentary series Great Museums, were used at public meetings whenever the subject of saving the High Line was discussed. Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, who had moved her New York City headquarters to the Meatpacking District in 1997, organized fund-raising events for the campaign in her studio, along with her husband, Barry Diller. Broadened community support of public redevelopment of the High Line for pedestrian use grew, and in 2004, the New York City government committed $50 million to establish the proposed park. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speakers Gifford Miller and Christine C. Quinn were important supporters. In total, funders of the High Line Park raised more than $150 million.
Reconstruction and design
On June 13, 2005, the U.S. Federal Surface Transportation Board issued a certificate of interim trail use, allowing the city to remove most of the line from the national railway system. On April 10, 2006, Mayor Bloomberg presided over a ceremony that marked the beginning of construction. The park was designed by the landscape architecture firm Field Operations and architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, with garden design from Piet Oudolf of the Netherlands, lighting design from L'Observatoire International, and engineering design by Buro Happold and Robert Silman Associates.
The recycling of the railway into an urban park has brought on the revitalization of Chelsea, which had been in generally poor condition in the late twentieth century. It has also spurred real estate development in the neighborhoods that lie along the line. Mayor Bloomberg noted that the High Line project has helped usher in something of a renaissance in the neighborhood: by 2009, more than 30 projects were planned or under construction nearby, and by 2016, more than 11 projects were under construction. It has also helped to raise the prices of properties directly adjacent to the High Line by an average of 10% compared to properties located a few blocks away. Since the park's opening in 2009, there have been at least 20 properties abutting the High Line that have sold for at least $10 million, with the average apartment in a building directly adjacent to the park selling for $6 million. Apartments located near Phase 1 of the High Line are, on average, more than twice as costly as apartments located between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, two blocks to the east. As of August 2016, the park has continued to increase real estate values and prices along the route, as a "halo effect".
Residents who have bought apartments next to the High Line Park have adapted to its presence in varying ways, but most responses are positive; some, however, claim that the park became a "tourist-clogged catwalk" since it opened. The real estate boom has not been victimless, however, many well-established businesses in west Chelsea have closed due to loss of neighborhood customer base or rent increases. Additionally, the majority of visitors to the High Line are tourists rather than locals, and the tourists tend to be overwhelmingly white while the demographics of Chelsea contain significant minority communities, many of whom live in two large public housing developments. In a 2017 interview, Hammond said he felt like he "failed" the community because the High Line did not fulfill its original purpose of serving the surrounding neighborhood, which instead had grown demographically divided around the High Line. The High Line's success in New York City has encouraged leaders of other cities, such as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who sees it as "a symbol and catalyst" for gentrifying neighborhoods.