On May 17th and 18th, I attended the El-Space forum in New York City. The forum brought together leaders from the public and private sector and projects including the Atlanta Beltline, The 606 in Chicago, Bajo Puentes Mexico City, The Bentway Toronto, Claiborne Corridor New Orleans, Infra-Space I Boston, Sixth Street Viaduct Los Angeles, SplashPad Oakland and The Underline Miami to study the progress and advance the emerging field of “el-space” planning and design.
The 2-day forum, hosted by the Design Trust for Public Space and New York City Department of Transportation was informative, inspirational and challenging. Representing The Underline, I learned about Under the Elevated, a plan to activate nearly 300 miles of underutilized land below New York City’s elevated highways, subway and railway lines and bridges into neighborhood assets. I also heard about exciting projects, their challenges and successes from all the cities represented.
We had a jam-packed agenda beginning with a Thursday evening visit to the pilot installation Under the Elevated highway in Sunset Park. The space is dark, dirty and very, very loud with high-speed traffic over head. The designers created very cool industrial, above- ground planting beds and are testing stormwater and lighting technologies to help the plants grow while mitigating flooding risk. The site visit was followed by a 5-minute flash presentation of all the El-Space projects including The Underline.
While each project was unique, they shared the potential to:
. Provide new land resources and foster infrastructure capacity
. Promote neighborhood access and mobility
. Supply an identity and people-centered lighting for commercial corridors
. Offer new paths and trails for walking, cycling and other healthy forms of recreation
. Contribute to a city’s stormwater capture goals and resiliency plans
. Become a place for gatherings, exchange and events
. Host markets, retail amenities and entrepreneurial opportunities that are lacking in the area.
On Friday we heard in-depth presentations on projects and an afternoon of learning as peer groups critiqued individual projects. The Underline was one of the projects that the attendees tackled. The experts suggested 1. That our project should cost more; 2. That our capital campaign should be double its goal of $30 Million; and 3. we need to engage all residents who live within a 10-minute walk of Metrorail since The Underline will be the largest park in Miami-Dade County with direct Metrorail access. They suggested we name this outreach “Above The Line.”
The 2-day forum of sharing and exploring ideas with incredible thought leaders and experts was both helpful and rewarding. It was gratifying to spend time with a community of people driving world-class projects throughout the world that are destined to transform their cities and citizens for generations to come.