In 1980, a railway stopped running on the Westside of Manhattan. Over the course of almost two decades, the structure was left to decay, at a time when the NYC was crumbling in so many ways. Empty spaces within the city became dark places. The likely end result was demolition, as there was no vision of possibility or renewal.
Except for a few locals who saw their neighborhood from a very different light. In 1999, two community members formed a non-profit to save the rail line. Their noble intent was to bring it back to life with a new purpose, a created urban green space.
A seemingly ‘crazy’ idea at the time, yet the visionaries persevered.
As they were slowly, painfully gaining momentum for their cause, NYC was changed forever. Not yet by the opening of a park in the sky, but by the events and aftermath of 9/11. The rallying cry to bounce back stronger than ever resounded loudly through the city, through the country, well really around the world. The need for the rebuilding of its core and injection of fresh, healthy energy within NYC built enthusiasm for this vision…now becoming closer to a plan. Crowd sourcing (years before anyone knew what crowd souring actually meant) kicked off, providing opportunities for community residents to collectively share ideas and thinking openly about the possibilities for ‘Designing the High Line’. And ground was broken in 2006 and the first phase officially opened with big spotlight in 2009.
Flash forward to 2015, over 20 million people have visited this saved railway, universally recognized as the High Line. It is now ‘iconic’, undeniable face of present-day NYC.
An almost destroyed wasteland has become the epitome of an urban playground for all. And not only is the High Line a visible success, it’s also an economic success – the city calculates tax revenues the High Line’s impact at about $900 million.
And the High Line has inspired other NYC neighborhoods and cities around the globe, such as London, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Miami to (re)innovate abandoned transport lines or structures.
In addition to having tenacious advocates, the High Line happened because 3 forces aligned...
Is this re-innovation? Absolutely! From our perspective, the High Line demonstrates what is possible when thinking about the full spectrum of innovation and redefining what it means to create.
Can this happen again? Absolutely! Never exactly in the same way…but we believe (re)innovation is often hidden in plain sight and found across all industries, categories and functions.