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Urban Design Compendium

Case Study 074 - Managing an inner city park

074 - High Line, New York

The High Line is a highly unusual public open space, managed and maintained by Friends of the High Line, a non-profit group working in partnership with the city authorities. Set on top of an old rail line, the linear park provides invaluable amenity in one the most densely populated cities in the world and has proved a catalyst for investment in the area.

The High Line was originally an elevated rail line constructed in the 1930’s to lift freight trains off Manhattan’s streets. The Friends of the High Line was founded in 1999 by two local residents to preserve the structure from demolition and advocate its transformation into a public park. Following the successful campaign the group spearheaded the design process and partnered with the City of New York to select a team of architects and landscape architects through an international design competition.

The High Line now functions as a mile and a half aerial greenway linking a series of neighbourhoods and providing much needed open space to the local community and visitors to the city. The success of the park is recognised by the speed and level of support and donations received following the opening of phase 1 in 2009, which allowed phase 2 to be completed just two years later. The park has also been a commercial success and has resulted in extensive new development in the neighbourhoods along the line. For an initial investment of $115 million to convert the railway, it is estimated that the city has attracted $2 billion in private money.

The park is owned by the City of New York and operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. The Friends of the High Line is responsible for the management of the park pursuant to a licence agreement with the Parks Department. The group provides over 70% of the park’s annual operating budget to oversee the maintenance, operations and public programming for the High Line, and promote the completion of the construction. Funding is raised through individual and corporate membership, donations and events.

Other Information

  • Project Team: Friends of High Line, City of New York, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation / Landscape architect: James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio & Renfro, Piet Oudolf
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UDC2 Section - Managing Quality Placesace 

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by, and incorporates plants from the self-seeded landscape that grew on the out-of-use elevated rail tracks during the 25 years after trains stopped running


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