From October 16 – 18, the High Line Network convened the largest gathering of North American infrastructure reuse project leaders in our first ever symposium, Beyond Economic Impact: Charting the Field of Infrastructure Reuse. As cities grow, the pressures of density and high costs of land are increasing the need for public green space. Infrastructure reuse projects (for example, highways, railways, bridges, industrial riverfronts, or waterways) provide an opportunity for a new generation of parks, which frequently cite the High Line as an example of what’s possible.
For the Network, this symposium was an experiment: it was the first time we expanded our annual Network convening beyond our 19 members. With over 60 projects of all stages in attendance, the convening was a forum for community leaders to address important questions on the role of equity in our work. Because even though public parks are, in principle, inherently democratic spaces, in reality, they can reflect and even amplify the inequality that exists (and that is rising) in our cities. As new public space ideas emerge, people are increasingly asking, “how do we move beyond the asking “how much” economic value can new public open space create, to “who benefits?”
We weren’t sure how it would go—would project leaders find the same value when there were so many more people in the room? Could we still foster the meaningful connections and honest dialogue that are so important to our mission?
It turned out that the experiment was a success—that growing the diversity of voices, projects, and perspectives allows for richer and more meaningful conversations. That the appetite for sharing, learning and collaborating was evident throughout the full days of panels, workshops, and one-on-one conversations, covering topics such as equitable community growth principles, public private partnerships, and leveraging online social media tools.
While the three days provided a wealth of takeaways, here are our top lessons learned:
There is so much beauty and possibility in creating new public spaces for our cities. The symposium offered the opportunity to renew and inspire project leaders to keep up the good fight—that their work is important, and has the potential to create lasting change for future generations.
These conversations we had over two days cemented what we suspected: the infrastructure reuse field is growing, and the Network can help. We’ll take these lessons forward, and look to expand our learning community in the coming months; visit our Network news page or follow us @highlinenyc for updates.
Lead support for the High Line Network is provided by The JPB Foundation. Program support is provided by Amanda and Don Mullen.
High Line Network’s Beyond Economic Impact symposium is made possible by lead support from The JPB Foundation. Additional support is provided by Knight Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and The Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston.