New York’s High-Line

Suspended two stories above Manhattan’s West Side lies an urban oasis, the High Line. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation turned an unused elevated train track into the city’s newest park. Originally designed in the 1930’s to elevate freight away from pedestrian traffic, the elevated tracks now serve as the foundation for a pedestrian-only park.

Landscaping on High Line & High Line as seen from street below – Photographs by David Ben

When the High Line’s first section opened on Tuesday, June 9, 2009, it was the first half-mile of what will ultimately be a mile and a half long park. Designed by landscape architects James Corner Field Operations and architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the park features several species of grasses, flowers, and trees that intermingle almost seamlessly at points with the concrete walkways.

Some sections include the original railroad lines embedded into the plantings as a reminder of the original function of the elevated path. Other parts use those lines as the foundation for rolling lounge chairs.

Designers also seem to have taken into account the green possibilities of managing water in the park. Drinking fountains placed intermittently allow water runoff to hydrate the plants directly. Additionally, portions of the walkway are intentionally pitched so that rainwater is redirected into the plants.

High Line water fountain & Drainage system on High Line – Photographs by David Ben

Managing water runoff accomplishes two goals. First, redirecting excess water to the plants reduces or eliminates the need for irrigation, saving water and ultimately saving the tax payer from funding the infrastructure and the maintenance cost of watering the plants. Second, diverting rainwater reduces stress on the sewer system because the water is absorbed by the dirt. From there, it is naturally filtered before it makes its way into the plants or evaporates. In the event of heavy rain, this process still works to slow the water down and filter it before it enters the sewer.

The high line demonstrates that urban livability and the outdated infrastructure need not stand in opposition. Its inception also speaks to the myriad of possibilities Cincinnati has for recreating urban vitality through re-imagining the space around us. Anyone have any ideas for Cincinnati’s skywalk system, the mistake that was the 71/75 corridor bisecting downtown, or anything else around town?

I’ve also got a ton more pics. Let me know if you want to see them.
Development News Transportation

New York City’s High Line

One of the neatest projects going on in the United States…go figure, it’s in New York City. Behold the High Line. If you have trouble viewing the video embedded here then try this one.


This Week In Soapbox 5/12

This Week In Soapbox (TWIS) will be a weekly feature that highlights the various development news stories I have written for Soapbox Cincinnati. You will most likely see the variety of photographs and some general commentary about the issues and places I have covered in that week’s edition on here, but the full stories will never be duplicated.

So if you’re interested in staying in touch with some of the latest development news in Cincinnati please check out this week’s stories and sign up for the weekly E-Zine sent out by Soapbox Cincinnati.

TWIS 5/12:

  • May means it’s bike month in Cincinnatifull article
  • Green Township adding 6th park to commemorate bicentennialfull article
  • Experienced Over-the-Rhine developer sees bright future for neighborhood, businessfull article
  • Christ Hospital Imaging Center opens and earns LEED Silver certificationfull article
  • SouthShore tower most recent jewel added along the Ohio Riverfull article
  • Cincinnati’s two-wheeler parking program taking next step, needs community inputfull article
Development News

Dog Parks Can Improve Livability of Cincinnati’s Urban Neighborhoods

The Trust for Public Land recently ranked the nation’s largest cities based on the number of dog parks available to their residents. Cincinnati fared well, coming in at #15 with 1.2 dog parks per 100,000 residents (73kb PDF) out of the 75 total cities examined.

Dog parks provide dog owners living in the city a spot where they can bring their canine friend to do their business. A secondary, and equally important, role to dog parks is the social component. Dogs and their owners alike often use their trips to the dog park as a way to socialize and interact with other dogs and owners.

This social component provides that always desired community feel as people become bonded to their neighbors through shared experiences. In the city, it also puts more “eyes on the street,” and creates a sense of vibrancy that might not be there if the owners kept themselves and their dogs cooped up inside their urban dwelling unit.

A rather large example of a good urban dog park in NYC – Source

So while Cincinnati fares well with the overall dog parks per 100,000 residents analysis, it fails in the very neighborhoods that dog parks would provide this dual benefit. Aside from the Pet Athletic Club, there is no dedicated spot for residents of Downtown, Over-the-Rhine or the West End to take their dogs. These neighborhoods are the most lacking in private yard space and need these kinds of parks to make urban living possible for the slews of dog owners out there.

There is hope though as a dog park is planned for the northern portion of Washington Park as part of its ensuing renovation/expansion. This will be a great asset for the residents of Over-the-Rhine and even those living in the northern parts of Downtown, but how about the many people living in the “Soapbox District” or over near Lytle Park?

Well there was a movement that surfaced about as quickly as it went away for a Downtown dog park. City Manager Milton Dohoney got a group of stakeholders together to study the issue with pledged support from the Downtown Residents Council. The effort, however, has been stalled indefinitely as the associated construction and maintenance costs appeared to be too cumbersome.

Please share any thoughts or ideas you may have about how to go about implementing a small dog park in Downtown Cincinnati. A donated piece of land, volunteer service and ideas about how to set up some sort of dog park endowment would be especially helpful in developing a dog park.
Arts & Entertainment News

Cincinnati area parks a growing community asset

Cincinnati is known for its great park system. The Cincinnati Park Board boasts 70 neighborhood parks, five regional parks and 34 nature preserves. This doesn’t include the additional 16,000-plus acres of parks (80+% are dedicated natural areas) in the Hamilton County system.

Over the years both systems have seen a strong usership of the parks, and have gradually expanded their respective systems in quantity and available uses. Hamilton County has begun implementing mountain bike trails in their parks. Cincinnati in the mean time is building what will become the crowning jewel (Central Riverfront Park) for the already impressive Cincinnati Park System.

The Central Riverfront Park will then be connected with the nearly 1.5 miles of existing riverfront parks that stretch from Downtown through the East End. These parks will then soon be connected into the Ohio River Bike Trail that will introduce a dedicated bike trail from Downtown all the way to the Little Miami Scenic Trail (aka Loveland Bike Trail).

Ohio River Trail Map (click for larger version) – Provided

In 2008 more Hamilton County residents used the county’s parks than in any other year in the past two decades. In the recent University of Cincinnati study, 96% of respondents said that they or a member of their family had visited a park in the Hamilton County Park District in the past year.

The two systems combined make for one of Cincinnati’s strongest assets. They are great resources for the region and offer a wide variety of outdoor activities for people and nature preserves for the environment. In that same survey the most popular Hamilton County park was Winton Woods.

  • You can help make the Ohio River Bike Trail reality by making a secure, tax-deductible donation to The Ohio River Way on their website. $12m of the $16m needed has been identified to bring the trail from Newtown to Lunken Airport. The remaining $4m is needed to complete the final leg from Lunken to Downtown.