• The High Line – 1999
  • A Railroad Artifact, 30th Street © Joel Sternfeld 2000
  • Washington Grasslands © Baan 2009

HR&A supported Friends of the High Line by demonstrating the economic rationale for transforming the High Line into a vibrant public park. The great park, created by Robert Hammond and Joshua David, reinvigorated Manhattan’s far west side with new jobs, mixed-income housing, and arts & cultural development providing an international renowned model of civic leadership.

The High Line, an elevated freight railway running 1.8 miles along Manhattan’s far west side, was built in the 1930s as part of a public works project to remove trains from the street level. After decades of abandonment and disuse, in 1999 New York City’s Mayor signed an order to demolish the High Line. Visionary neighborhood residents formed Friends of the High Line (FHL) to convert the abandoned rail yard into a public open space that would preserve the historic structure while creating a new public amenity for the neighborhood.

HR&A has supported conversion efforts in a variety of ways.

  • HR&A prepared an economic and fiscal impact analysis demonstrating that converting the rail into a dynamic public park would produce economic and social benefits far outweighing the cost of demolition.
  • We also worked with FHL and the NYC Department of City Planning to craft an innovative, and award-winning rezoning that enabled air rights under and around the High Line to be transferred to nearby land parcels. The rezoning preserved private property rights, catalyzed appropriate real estate development that protected the historic railway structure, and enhanced the position of West Chelsea and the Meatpacking District as centers for art and culture in Manhattan.
  • HR&A worked closely with FHL to create the park’s operating model that transformed FHL from an advocacy organization into a conservancy. Relying on an agreement with the Parks Department, FHL is responsible for all public space management of an open space that receives over 3 million visitors a year.
  • Despite the Bloomberg administration’s embrace of the High Line’s first two sections, the final and most beautiful section was threatened with demolition as part of the Hudson Yards development. Even before a developer was selected, HR&A supported FHL’s successful effort to ensure the preservation of the entire structure.

In 2009, the first section of the High Line opened to the public, and HR&A Chairman John Alschuler was named Board Chair of Friends of the High Line.

The second section opened in 2011, doubling the size of the Park to nearly 1 mile. Since the High Line was saved, over 30 new residential, commercial, and cultural development projects have been planned or constructed in the area, including Frank Gehry’s IAC Interactive headquarters, Jean Nouvel’s 100 11th Avenue residential condominium building, and a new home for the Whitney Museum designed by Renzo Piano. To date, the High Line has been visited by over 6 million people, has become the City’s third most visited tourist attraction, and serves as a vibrant and unique park amenity for neighborhoods along Manhattan’s far west side.

Awards

  • The International Economic Development Council awarded HR&A the 2010 Neighborhood Development prize for the firm’s work saving the High Line.
  • The International Green Roof Association awarded the Friends of the High Line and John Alschuler their Green Roof Leadership award in 2010.
  • Wallpaper Magazine named the High Line the Winner of the 2010 Life-Enhancer of the Year.
  • Mayor Michael Bloomberg & the City of New York awarded the Friends of the High Line the 2010 Doris C. Freedman Award.
  • The Society of American Registered Architects awarded their 2010 NY Council Design Medallion of Honor to the High Line.
  • The Urban Land Institute bestowed a 2009 Global Award for Excellence on the New York City Department of City Planning’s 2005 West Chelsea Rezoning that allowed for the High Line.
  • The Village Voice recognized the High Line as the Best New Public Space of 2009.
  • The American Council on Engineering Companies of New York awarded the High Line a 2009 Engineering Excellence Award.
  • The New York Metro chapter of the American Planning Association gave Friends of the High Line the 2003 William H. Whyte Award.
  • The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation recognized Friends of the High Line with the 2001 Annual Village Award.

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