Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Taking the High Road

On the West Side of Manhattan there is an amazing park that stretches through the neighbourhoods of Chelsea, The Meat Packing District and Hells Kitchen. It is called the High Line and it is one of the best examples of modern urban redevelopment. The High Line was originally an elevated track that moved dangerous trains off of the streets of Manhattan. Built in the 1930's and last utilized in the early 80's, the High Line became a decrepit community eyesore and was slated to be demolished until a small group of community activists fought to preserve the High Line and it's significance to the neighbourhoods it served. By taking ingenious design, the High Line magnificently mixes industrial material with natural occurring plants and wood that somehow blend into the urban landscape seamlessly. Beautiful!

Redevelopment is not a new concept to many of us. The City of Calgary has been working aggressively at re-shaping our oldest and ugliest neighbourhoods. Don't believe me? Just take a walk through the East Village, Victoria Park and Bridgeland. Can you think of any old industrial/brownfield sites that would be a good candidate for a face lift? I'm sure you can! Just to name a few off the top of my head, how about the old Firestone site or the Currie Barracks? These are sites that remained nearly deserted and unused, but could certainly benefit from a redevelopment strategy.

Look outside of the box; rethink your neighborhood. Make it yours.

Redevelopment doesn't end simply at placing a condo on top of an old site. There are far more options that may not be as financially viable but add to a city's attractiveness and livability. Adding new high rises simply add to the problem as we consume more and effectively force out those who cannot afford to live in luxury. This is why our civic officials need to take charge of our cities, listen to their constituents and mute out the corporations. We need more low-income housing. More parks. More transit options. Our cities belong to us and we need to dare to be a little different.

To learn a little more about what the City of Calgary is doing in terms of redevelopment, click on the following links: Calgary's Brownfield Strategy, Toward Smart Growth in Calgary, and Plan It Calgary Display Boards. I've done my research, you should too!


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