22. Urban Green Links

Urban linear parks are public spaces that take you somewhere, that encourage people to move in a linear fashion, or to exercise along a straight course, They differ from traditional urban parks, which are destinations in neighborhoods or downtown settings. such as Manhattan’s Washington Square. Linear parks emphasize movement of the users, while traditional urban parks emphasize staying in one place. perhaps to enjoy a fountain, eat lunch, read a book, or watch people passing by. While one might ride a bike to an urban park, in a linear park, a bike is one form of mobility used within the park. People walk to traditional urban parks; they walk along urban linear parks. In transportation jargon, a linear park is a “guideway”; other urban parks are “destinations.” Part of the user fascination with linear parks in cities and towns is the changing viewscapes.

Some parks in cities are not “urban.” Vast, wooded areas comprising hundreds of acres such as those in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., are forests within cities, rural places accessible to urban people.

A retail developer has created a new plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey, that looks and functions like an Italian piazza. People pause there during shopping to admire the fountain, bask in the sun, and watch other people-pastim es in a true urban park. A few blocks away is the loo·year-old, two mile-long 8.2·km) boardwalk that attracts thousands of walkers daily to enjoy the sounds, sights, and atmosphere of the ocean, the new faux Victorian facades, and other strollers. The boardwalk is a place for strolling, a true linear park, like the meandering linear park along the River Leith in Edinburgh, Scotland.

A number of urban linear parks in the United States and Europe contribute to the local economy, in addition to their success as public recreation facilities. They can be diverse: one with two tunnels, another rising two stories above street level. They often illustrate urban reuse possibilities in industrial locations that have been without public or private activities for a half century or more. Some follow old rait lines or canals, others bring people close to rivers and the ocean. Problems-as well as elements of success- are noted in the following linear parks:

Capital Crescent Trail, Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., to Bethesda, Maryland. This trail begins at the Potomac River at the lowest end of the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. The 12-mile (19-km) arc of the recreational path follows a defunct branch of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Today’s pedestrian/bikeway passes beneath an elevated expressway and alongside the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Several miles later, the trail emerges in the commercial center of Bethesda, Maryland. Plans call for an extension to Rockville, another revitalizing downtown.

A 100-year·old rail tunnel in the D.C. segment provides a handsome stretch of urban archeology through which the trail passes; a second tunnel is of recent origin. In Bethesda, an air rights deal with the rail right·of-way owners produced a large redevelopment project that physically unifies Bethesda’s commercial core, previously divided by the rait tine.

The town’s enterprising business improvement district (BID) has created year-round vending sta lls beside the trai l, enterprises that draw hikers and bikers to purchase food and goods. Shops and restaurants nearby add to the trail’s popularity and benefit from sales to hikers and bikers.

In some segments, the trail is wooded, not yet paved, and passes through a golf course. Occasional historic markers add interest. The almost uninterrupted right-of-way attracts week·day commuters, mainly bikers. On weekends, users include runners, in-line skaters, bikers, and walkers, many pushing or pulling infants in wheeled vehicles.

The 12-mile (19-km) Capital Crescent Trail uses a defunct branch of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and runs between Washington. D.C., and Bethesda, Maryland, passing through a 1oo-yearold rail tunnel once used by steam locomotives and freight cars

The ten-foot-wide (three-m) paved trail sometimes proves insufficient for the number of users. Despite signs admonishing bikers to keep to safe speeds, the downhill grade seems irresistible to some. Because of the physical limits of the old rail right-oF-way, prospects For widening it are poor. Though the present recreational use of the trail appears there to stay, some continue to advocate that the right-of-way be used for a new transit line.

Schuykill Banks Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Still a work in process, a trail follows Philadelphia’s second river on the west side of Center City and is adjacent to several densely populated areas. The park consists of three segments with differing amenities and degrees of completion.

The new Center City segment is within walking distance for about 100,000 residents. A decade in construction, this southernmost segment limped along, requiring a complete reorganization of the sponsoring nonprofit corporation’s board of directors and its management. With the support of the nearby University of Pennsylvania, a workable plan and financing produced a popular new amenity. Due to a new manager, Joe Fymkk, chief executive officer of Schuykill Banks, the trail is paved, the shrubbery installed, and the access improved.

Philadelphia's Schuylkill Banks linear park has opened the riverside to public use, mainly on a narrow strip between a freight railroad and the city's second river, the Schuylkill.

One early problem, eventually resolved, was that nearby residents objected to the prospective trail because recreational users from outside the neighborhood would be competing with them for scarce on-street parking spaces. Another problem, also resolved, was CSX railroad’s initial refusal to allow pedestrians to cross its double tracks, barring convenient pedestrian access. Radical changes in landscaping and increasing numbers of trait users removed yet another problem-the presence of drug peddlers and other miscreants. A remaining problem is the excessive noise from cars, trucks, and buses on the opposite shore, where a concrete wall directs this roar toward the linear parle

This section of the trail passes by the restored Waterworks complex, built in the early years of the 19th century. A small museum (Boat House Row) adds interest, and a restaurant (the Waterworks) offers views of the river. In addition to exercise, fishing is popular.

The trail’s midsection at Fairmount Park and East Falls includes a heavily used water edge park. Boat House Row, a sculpture garden, periodic regattas. and flowering trees. Although paved, the trail has been separated into sections- one for pedestrians and one for bikers-but demand is 50 great that most of the trail remains too narrow. Many joggers run on the trail from Penn and Drexel University campuses across the river. One popular route is to cross over the Schuylkill by bridge and return via the river’s west side park. A full-page ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer Philadelphia’s Schuylkill Banks linear park has opened the riverside to public use, mainly on a narrow strip between a freight railroad and the city’s second river, the Schuylkill, for the latest residential mid·rise building promotes canal and river views in what is referred to as a “friendly” place where tenants can “take the pooch on the bike path or stroll to outstanding shops and restaurants.”

The incomplete East Falls portion of the trail consists partly of striped edges along high-speed roadways. Plans are in the works to improve this essential link.

The trail at Manayunk occupies the towpath of the Manayunk Canal, located a half block from Main Street’s highly popular dining and shopping. The physical upgrades, largely the result of work by the business improvement district, draw a number of bikers to shopping and dining near the towpath. The trail passes through the outdoor dining portions of two canalside restaurants. The next improved section will reach downtown Norristown, Pennsylvania, and ultimately, Valley Forge.

The Long Branch Promenade, North Jersey. New Jersey. More than 20 years ago the then-mayor of this economically battered oceanside community asked a consulting firm to determine how the city could secure a hotel to improve its public image and bring in needed tax revenues. Extensively blighted, the last old-time summer hotel had been demolished decades earlier. The site had an oceanview junkyard and a “park” used for a parking lot; even the go-go bars had closed.

The redevelopment plan and financial incentives resulted in a 250-room Hilton hotel and conference center and a half-milelong (o.8-km) oceanfront promenade. People drive from throughout Monmouth County to walk, run, and bike in this new urban linear park. The city adopted a plan for the then sparsely occupied surrounding 100 acres (40 ha). Developers have since produced nearly 1,000 new residential units, shops, and restaurants, and developer-funded promenade extensions. With direct access to the promenade, the hotel became the city’s number one taxable property.

The principal redevelopment problem was political; if Mayor Phil Huhn preferred residential and commercial redevelopment to finance promenade extensions, the opposition party opposed it. Still, Mayor Huhn prevailed, as did his successor. Although storms have occasionally washed out parts of the promenade, repairs to the city’s most visible icon are always assured.

There is a strong economic tie between the new apartments, where many of the runners and walkers reside, and the seaside Promenade. Some of the new restaurants overlook the pedestrianway and the ocean.

Wilmington, Delaware, Riverfront Park. The south end of Wilmington’s commercial center was so dicey ten years ago that the city tore up two blocks of an otherwise successful pedestrian mall, a potential pedestrian link to the river. The state of Delaware established a special redevelopment agency to create new activities south of the Amtrak rail station near the river where decayed shipbuilding and manufacturing structures revealed acres of Wilmington’s urban blight to tens of thousands of rail travelers.

The state agency built a well-lighted, two-mile-long 8.2-km) waterfront park connecting a minor league baseball stadium on the south end with offices, shopping, theaters, a public market, and restaurants along the way. A business improvement district (BID) hired cleaning crews and unarmed, radio -equipped safety personnel who provide reassurance and information for visito rs and residents, The costs of these common benefits are shared by the private sector property owners.

Over the years, some city-state competition arose, including a battle over the park’s name (a compromise settled the issue). The riverfront redevelopment has become a strong anchor for downtown Wilmington, drawing hundreds of households to new residential projects, restaurants, shopping, and workplaces-all linked by the urban linear park.

La Rambla is an urban pedestrianway cutting through the center of Barcelona, Spain, with commercial and recreational offerings changing block after block.

La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain. Slicing through the old center of the Catalonian capital, La Rambla connects the broad Diagonale at the Placa Catalunya with Barcelona’s historic Mediteranean port. Recently, the city extended the original pedestrian-way one-half mi le along the shoreline. Somewhat elevated, this extension offers harbor views, provides underground parking, and conceals the waterfront street that separated the city from the busy waterfront.

Centuries old, the original pedestrian facility has matured into an appealing urban place; even in northern Spain’s cool months, the lively facility is full of people experiencing its diverse offerings. Streets parallel to La Rambla provide a backdrop of Catalonian architectural styles, including some by famed Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi. A public market reflects the continued convenience made possible by 19th·century residential densities. The 1so-year-old Lyceu opera house attracts the best of Europe’s musicians,

La Rambla is about 45 feet (14 m) wide in the pedestrian center, a place distinguished by thousands of people on foot. Commercial and recreational offerings change block after block, Mimes occupy one segment; in remarkable costumes, they pose as birds or 19th-century chimney sweeps, encouraging contributions from the entranced crowds. Outdoor cafes are selVed by waiters running between tables in the pedestrian center and tables at restaurants beyond the traffic lane. One block offers a bird market; another consists of flower stalls. In the distance is a view of the sea and the harbor, drawing crowds toward the uniquely blue Mediterranean, La Rambla is among the world’s best urban places for entertaining crowds while encouraging them to spend and, of course, to walk.

The Hudson River edge trail in New York City brings broad views and accessibte hiking, running, and biking opportunities to residents in one of the country's densest neighborhoods.

Hudson River and the Piers, Manhattan, New York. A pair of linear parks in Manhattan illustrates a combination of urban density, imagination, political pressure for recreational improvements, and money, mostly public. The first of these urban trails lies on the West Side within walking range of ha lf a million residents. Components of what ultimately will be a five-mile-long (eight-km) facility for walkers. runners, and bikers follow the Hudson River edge where not long ago, ocean liners picked up and dropped off passengers. Many of these large piers thrusting into the Hudson are being converted to new functions, mainly recreational.

The West Side trail brings the public closer than ever to the Hudson River. Even in cold pre-spring days, runners and walkers are out everywhere, from Battery Park City in the south and north to 59th Street. Plans call for pedestrian links to Riverside South Park and Rive rside Park, the Hudson River Valley Greenway Park, and ultimately to Troy, New York.

Battery Park City offers full views of the harbor and the new skyscrapers in Jersey City. Northward and between piers are a children’s playground, a basketball court, community garden plots, a dog run, and tennis and basketball courts.

Farther northward are a town dock, a snack bar, and a sand area for beach volleyball. At Pier 26 is a boathouse where members can store their canoes and kayaks and the public can borrow small craft, and an ecological and research center; off-shore moorings accommodate 40 boats.

Fishing is an option throughout the route. An “estuarium”-an education and research faci lity- will be created on one pier. Where the path is not finished, a temporary walkway/ bikeway along major streets and between activity piers is well used.

Pier 40 has a public esplanade around its perimeter. The grassy turf in the pier’s center is large enough for regulation soccer, a frequent activity. A historic lighthouse boat is moored just off shore.

Pier 45 will have a lawn, a wooden boardwalk, open-shade structures, sun decks, plantings, and a water taxi stop. As municipal uses can be relocated, Pier 51 will offer ball fields, a children’s playground, and a sunning beach. The city’s sole waterside fire station will remain in place. Floating docks will accommodate 60 small boats.

Chelsea Pier, a commercial enterprise, is operated under a long-term lease, providing sports and recreation facilities, including two ice rinks, a golf driving range, a marina, a bowling alley, a track and gymnastiCS center, television and film studiOS, and restaurants. A public pedestrian walkway surrounds the pier. North of the pier is the equestrian center and Basketball City, both private businesses. Beyond is a heliport.

Near midtown, one pier close to the Javitts Center is used for cross Hudson ferries and another serves the Circle Line boat tours. The Sea-Air-Space museum is contained in the USS Intrepid, a retired aircraft carrier. Three piers will continue to be used as passenger ship terminals. Pier 97 will offer boardwalk, tennis, volleyball, badminton, and handball. There will be a town dock, shade structures, and benches.

The trail and piers are used by bikers, runners, and walkers in almost all weather, generating popular support from users and financial support for construction from the efforts of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. This urban linear park is regarded as a political, economic, and recreational success. Imagination was important; the density and diversity of activities are considered the keys to its success.

Philadelphia's Schuylkill Banks linear park has opened the riverside to public use, mainly on a narrow strip between a freight railroad and the city's second river, the Schuylkill.

High Line, Manhattan, New York. Reuse of America’s surplus industrial infrastructure has few more inventive examples than Manhattan’S elevated High Line, a 22-block-long (1.5 miles or 2.4 km), abandoned rail freight line that served the West Side’s factories and warehouses in the old meatpacking district. The track is located 30 feet above the Chelsea district’s streets and the “garden” of wild plants, including goldenrod and young dogwoods, that has grown up among the tracks. The sponsors call it seven acres of “lush, urban wilderness,” a garden in the sky. The freight line passed through blocks, rather than over streets, alongside and through the centers of the buildings it served. Milk, meat, produce, and other commodities could be loaded and unloaded without interfering with auto traffic. The High Line linear park will link the Javitts Center, Penn Station, and neighborhoods where new condominiums and old warehouse conversions are attracting a bumper crop of walkers, bikers, and runners-and, perhaps, some gardeners as well.

Success did not come easily. Part of the structure was demolished in the 1960s as rail shipping dropped off. The last train ran in 1980. Not recognizing the amenity benefits of an elevated park, real estate interests proposed that the city demolish the remaining portions. A grassroots lobbying effort failed to sway former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani who planned to demolish it. However, public support to retain the park grew with help from the historic preservation movement. The propark group won a court challenge and were helped by the efforts of Mayor Bloomberg. The city put up $1 million to adapt the freight line for public use.

Early successes include the transformation of countless industrial buildings into residential use. Developers now see the facility as a residential amenity. The High line park will offer gardening opportunities as well as a running and walking trail that can be used in conjunction with the West Side river-edge park, running north along the West Side trail and returning southward along the High line. Investors are committed to two hotels and a half dozen new apartment houses.

Paseo del Rio, San Antonio, Texas. The granddaddy of American urban linear parks is the River Walk or EI Paseo del Rio in central San Antonio, Texas, which parallels an offshoot of the San Antonio River, a waterway that was once a costly eyesore and flood menace.

With funding from the Works Progress Administration in 1939. a pedestrian-way was created along the water’s edge, a full story below street grade. Today, mature trees, shrubs, and flowers create an almost tropical setting in which street noises are silenced. Somewhat more than three miles (4.8 km) long, the Passeo is the setting for restaurants, shops, and hotels-each with a river entrance as well as one at street level. The Hyatt Regency, for example, capitalized on the popularity of the pedestrianway by structuring its lobby to permit a Trinity River tributary to flow through it.

Passing under 20-odd bridges, the urban linear park provides walkers with round-trip opportunities to enjoy the ever-changing scenery, commercial as well as horticultural. The trip along the waterfront can also be made in special river boats. Weekdays, walking commuters go through the park with few traffic interru ptions or noise on their way to work.

Canals in England. Few people in the world enjoy walking-or are selVed by as many urban linear parks-as the English. A surviving netv.Jork of 19th-century canals was constructed to bring raw materials to factories and finished products to markets. Passing through large cities and small towns, hikers can walk coast to coast on well-maintained berms or can travel on canal boats converted into floating houses. Among the linked urban centers are London, where the canal wraps around Regents Park and Paddington Station, and Oxford, which is within walking distance of its university and of Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city. The Paddington segment has bcome a large and prosperous redevelopment area.

Atlanta, Georgia, Loop Trail. Atlanta is creating a 33-mile (s3-km) loop trail principally on old rail rights-of-way. A tax allocation district (TAD) will help finance it and, according to the Trust for Public l and, any new property taxes generated within the district will be allocated to fund parks, trails, transit, and other infrastructure along the route. Business improvement districts may also provide funding.

Linear Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The linear park created over Boston’s Orange transit line, which is below grade, serves as a pedestrian connection between nearby neighborhoods and office sector employment, a mile or so away. The Orange line is an exception to the general rule that urban linear parks are used mainly on weekends. This linear park is a popular route to work and is used primarily Monday through Friday.

Linear parks need to be regarded as safe, attractive, and interesting-and need to have good access and be wide enough for simultaneous use by various users. The more these trails exist in or near private land, the more likely they are to have value added in retail sales, jobs, and tax revenues. For example, New York’s West Side trail has many adjacent, easily accessible private properties that offer recreation, dining, exercise, and the like. The Wilmington waterfront is a commercial success, as evidenced by its public market and a discount mall. The Manayunk trail in Philadelphia passes through two outdoor restaurants. The Capital Crescent trail in downtown Bethesda runs through a cluster of retail establishments, some created by the BID.

The High Line in Manhattan is attracting investors-before it opens-who are converting old and blighted buildings into marketable residences along the length of the trail and one or two blocks on either side. San Antonio’s Paseo del Rio has a long and favorable history of attracting private redevelopment investment, not least of which for hotels. In long Branch, a substantial seaside village was created by building it on the oceanside trail, a contributing economic factor. Interesting views are important, such as those at Barcelona’s La Rambla with its markets, dining, striking architecture, and mimes throughout the route.

Fear of personal safety is not a typical deterrent to users of urban linear parks; indeed, the more users, the less fear. The Philadelphia example illustrates the additional benefits of good lighting and landscape changes, encouraging users at twilight and after dark.

Local resistance to urban linear parks is infrequent, unlike linear parks proposed in suburban or exurban locations where crime, especially vandalism, is sometimes feared by adjacent property owners. A study of Boston trail users and adjoining neighborhood residents revealed “generally positive estimates of park safety by day,” although respondents reported low estimates of nighttime safety. Adequate park lighting is rare.

Urban linear parks are popular amenities that enhance real estate values. Often, marginal properties-such as industrial buildings, old railroads, or waterfronts- can be converted into recreational facilities that attract investors impressed with the volume of users. Give people an attractive, convenient, interesting place where they can walk or run or bike-and they will come.

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