City officials and the Friends of the High Line presented the final design on Wednesday for the first phase of the High Line, the $170 million park that is under construction on the West Side of Manhattan and has been called one of New York City’s more distinctive public projects.
The park, modeled loosely on the Promenade Plantée in Paris, is being built on a 1.45-mile elevated freight rail structure that stretches 22 blocks, from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street, near the Hudson River. The rail structure, built to support two fully loaded freight trains, was built from 1929 to 1934 when the West Side was a freight-transportation hub, but has been unused for decades. The tracks are 30 to 60 feet wide and 18 to 30 feet above the ground.
Ground was broken in April 2006. Over the past two years, crews have been constructing the first, $85 million segment of the 6.7-acre park, which is estimated to cost $170 million and is financed by federal, city and private money.
At a news conference in Chelsea, officials unveiled two sets of final designs: for the first phase, which will stretch from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street and be completed by the end of this year, and for the second phase, which will go from 20th Street to 30th Street and be completed by the end of 2009.
“The High Line will be like other parks in our city’s system, but it will also be distinct a park in the sky, unlike any other,” Adrian Benepe, the city’s parks commissioner, said in a statement.
Amanda M. Burden, the city’s planning commissioner, who joined Mr. Benepe at the news conference, said in a statement that the designers had “created a magical environment that is at once ever-changing, intricate and sweeping.”
The designs for the park are the creation of a team led by Field Operations, a landscape architectural company, which, along with architects from Diller Scofidio + Renfro, won a 2004 design competition. The Museum of Modern Art exhibited the team’s preliminary designs for the first phase of the High Line in 2005.
The new designs reveal with greater precision the important elements of the park’s first phase, including Gansevoort Plaza, the park’s southern terminus in the meatpacking district and a major access point for the park; the “slow stairs” that will gradually ascend from street level to the elevated rail bed; and a two-level sundeck between 14th and 15th Streets that will offer views of the Hudson.
It will also have an art installation space where the park cuts through the Chelsea Market, formerly a Nabisco factory; and the 10th Avenue Square, an area of steps and ramps at 17th Street where visitors can descend into the lower part of the elevated railway.
An additional $14 million has been designated for a plaza and stairs to the park, still to be designed.
A third and final phase of the High Line, still in the planning stages, involves a half-mile section ringing the railyards north of 30th Street and 12th Avenue. A developer, the Related Companies, won a contract in May to redevelop the railyards with the park as part of its proposal, but who will finance that final phase of the project remains unclear.
Robert Hammond, co-founder of Friends of the High Line, a nonprofit group established in 1999, which will eventually manage and operate the High Line in cooperation with the parks department, said the park’s grand opening had not been scheduled but was likely to take place in December or January.
Asked whether the cold months were the best time to open a new park, Mr. Hammond replied that the timing would allow officials and the public to acclimate themselves to the new space.
“One of my biggest concerns is over-success,” he said. “It’s not MoMA. It’s not the Sheep Meadow. It’s a relatively small park. One of the advantages of opening the window is, it’s almost like a soft opening. As it gets more beautiful in the spring, we’ll be figuring out how to manage it.
“One of my concerns is it being loved to death in the first few weeks. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s something we’ve been thinking a lot about.”