Sep 29

How Turning an Abandoned Rail-line into a Linear Park Created Billions in Development

If you don’t think something like a boardwalk can transform not only a
cityscape but also its economy, look at what happened when a one mile
section of an abandoned elevated train track (the West Side Line owned
by New York Central Railroad) was re-purposed as a linear park along the
lower west side of Manhattan.

In 2012, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, more than 4 million people
used the park and over $2 billion was spent on development in adjacent

Now Anglo-Iraqi starchitect Zaha Hadid has created a 39-unit apartment building using her trademark curved glass wall style at 520 W 28th street in Chelsea. Outdoor space (balconies) feature prominently as well. Ms Hadid loves the light in New York, which she calls “rare, both cold and sharp.”

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, units range from 1,700 square feet to more than 6,000 square feet. Prices go from $4.95 million to as much as $50 million, which means the smallest and lest expensive unit is still $2,912 per square foot.

Billions in value were unlocked when New York Central Railroad re-purposed its rail-line, and the city of New York  rezoned the area around the Hudson Yards and the High Line about a decade ago. Ms Hadid tells Bloomberg, “The whole liberation of the High Line has made projects possible.” 

James Corner is founder of James Corner Field Operations, the design firm responsible for New York’s High Line. He believes that, “good design in public spaces makes a city more appealing, draws both new residents and the companies that want to employ them, and enhances economic value of everything around it–a theory that’s been more than borne out in practice.” (Bloomberg Businssweek, April 11-24, 2016).


Here’s a screenshot from their website, which captures, at least to my mind, one of the key elements of making any public space work. It also makes it safer. How? By adding live elements–tea shop, food truck, sports area, (clean) w/c, artist studio, micro museum, wine bar, bandstand, speaker platform, newsstand, bicycle/skateboard/hoverboard rental, bookstore… any space that combines nature, leisure activities, active uses and jobs will be successful.

So if you want to create new value in your town or city, you could do worse than add a boardwalk, which is exactly what I proposed for Ottawa as Canada turns 150 in 2017. Read more at

@ profbruce @ quantum_entity

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.