“We were from the community. We wanted to do it for the neighborhood,” states Robert Hammond, a co-founder of the High Line in an interview with City Lab. “Ultimately, we failed.”
The High Line might be popular, but it hasn’t really benefited its adjacent community. Visitors are overwhelmingly tourists—and overwhelmingly white, despite the fact that one-third of the residents of Chelsea are people of color.
In the interview, they discuss the displacements that usually attend such high-profile design interventions, which are increasingly gaining favor in municipal governments.
I get that's it's a tourist trap, but this nonsense idea that good design is somehow bad because of its success is nihilistic. The media seems to root for failure in design more than success anymore.. and boy is failure easy to find. But is the area better with no High Line? There was a brief time when some really great architecture was built there: Ban, Selldorf, a few others (now its the bad stars like BIG and DS+R) but it's still a great showcase for architecture, in spite of luxury trends that would have happened either way. Sorry if you want to live in Chelsea of the 1970s but there's plenty of gritty spots in NYC if you know where to look
Chemex, I agree that we are too quick to condemn a project for the side effects of the success and the changes a successful project can bring about. This criticism is more to do with the wider social upheaval that happens in cities. Lately because of the housing crisis of 2008 and the concentration of the "new economy" in major cities is causing some people to be pushed aside and at a more rapid rate. Maybe success and the planning around these kind of projects needs to include a way for existing residents to get some equity out of it, especially if the neighborhood will be out or reach for existing residents financially.
The animosity is easily, but possibly not accurately, painted as a racial one where poor mostly minority communities are not provided adequate or equitable city services and infrastructural improvements but once those changes come the residents who had to live through the years and often decades of disinvestment are quickly displaced for more affluent more white people. If a new infrastructure project can find a way to give existing residents a way to buy in and or cash out and to define success of the project not on solely on the neighborhood but on the financial and health of the current residents, even if they move away.
Maybe success needs to be measured against something more than property values but that may make it hard to claim success as local politicians are keen to do.
First let me say I really like the High Line. But...
Part of the problem with the High Line is that, while it's a wonderful and creative bit of adaptive reuse, it's not really the kind of adaptation that energizes the urbanism of the community. Its a wonderful place to visit, but it's still a walkway and park that's elevated above the streets - in a sense it's anti-urban (in the same way that the elevated freeway that was it's precursor was). The people who actually live in the neighborhood may visit it from time to time, but their actual, day-by-day life doesn't engage it actively. It doesn't surprise me that the majority of the High Line visitors are tourists. It's really a beautifully designed and planted arterial which links a series of hip destinations, and allows people to overlook a neighborhood, while engaging it in a very limited and controlled fashion.
The highline is an economic development project. It does what the city intended it to do- transform a neighborhood and increase it's tax roles. To suggest that it's not meant to be so glitzy ignores the significant higher costs and the specialized equipment designed for maintenance. The resulting tourist are not a problem, but an part of the equation, bring money into the new retail in and on the edge of the meatpacking district.
One beneficial part of all this was that the meatpacking facility that was located where the Whitney is was abandoned with meat in the lockers- and that "mess" was removed.
Another distinction I'd add: I can't blame these people for a great design that was TOO good (in a world that needs more not less design), and in the middle of NYC, so it's not like we are talking about ....
....If developers are using High-line strategies to knowingly induce gentrification in low-income areas, that's a different ballgame. That must be addressed, though it can be overcome with more quality low-income architecture (hate the trendy term "housing"). I don't think this was that (Chelsea was already the center of the art world).
"If developers are using High-line strategies to knowingly induce gentrification in low-income areas, that's a different ballgame."
So called 'artists lofts' have been part of the developer game for decades. The high line is just the artist loft aesthetic applied to a park. They know exactly what they're doing.
That said, I agree with your point that we shouldn't blame someone for a design being 'too good' in a world with so much poor design.
Reality, as it tends to be, is pretty complex. It's hard to lay blame on any one variable for just about anything.