Wild abandon and a new frontier : converting vacant railways into urban greenways

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University of Delaware
The restoration of the Chelsea High Line in New York City has received numerous design accolades and injected new life into the fields of horticulture and landscape architecture. Its sleek lines and lush new-wave plantings have dazzled millions of admirers since the first section opened in 2009. In addition to the High Line, four other former railways in various stages of conversion into parkland were studied in this research: Philadelphia’s Reading Viaduct, Paris’ Promenade Plantée, Natur Park Südgelände in Berlin, and the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. Each site was assessed so as to propose a unique protocol for railway redevelopment, including the development, management, and neighborhood impact of rail line parks. While visiting and incorporating several lesser-known projects, research focused on specific ingredients that resulted in parkway actualization. Research describes challenges and successes, and provides recommendations for potential linear parks in urban areas. Each site was visited in 2011. Interviews were conducted with park staff and members of founding groups, the defining features of each site were recorded, and essential details relating to project start up, implementation, and maintenance were catalogued. This led to an articulation of the overall challenges and successes of the five models.Interviews with original park advocacy group members at each site were of particular value, as they provided proven strategies and pitfalls when promoting a new railway park. In conclusion, the success for each project has invariably been contingent on the park advocacy group’s ability to build constituency, develop resources, and negotiate the greater political arena.