When construction on New York City’s famous High Line began in 2006, the project to turn a remnant of the industrial age into a post-industrial garden and tourist attraction appeared innovative, but potentially very risky.
Indeed so. And now it’s a fantastic success and everyone is happ…
Oh. I forgot. Of course, they aren’t:
In fact, having finally opened in 2009, the High Line is now suffering from its own success: with more than 5 million estimated visitors to the site each year, this greening initiative has managed to transform the entire socio-economic character of the neighbourhood that surrounds it. Many small businesses and moderate-income residents have been forced to relocate due to rising land values, while even those who can afford it have begun to experience the downsides of living or working in an area that panders to tourists.
How awful! A downtrodden, disused section of the city has been made into a popular area! Oh, calamity!
The High Line is thus a perfect example of “environmental gentrification” – the growing phenomenon of rising property values in the wake of a large-scale urban greening project.
These people are insane. Utterly insane. Yes, property prices rose – because the project worked and things have got better. So isn’t that what we’d expect to happen? Even want to happen?
Over the past few years, a new trend has emerged in direct response to the problem of eco-gentrification. I will label it “conscious anti-gentrification” . This kind of greening project aims to increase the environmental quality and public health of a neighbourhood but without changing its socio-economic character. This is done by explicitly rejecting elements that tend to lead to gentrification, such as fancy waterfronts; by including neighbourhood residents in the planning process; and by implementing changes gradually.
Maybe ‘changing its socio-economic character’ is what causes the upturn, and not the pretty trees and flowers? Have you ever considered that?
Across the Atlantic in Berlin, another example of conscious anti-gentrification is emerging. It involves the redevelopment of the former Tempelhof airport, located in the popular neighbourhoods of Kreuzberg and Neukölln. Once one of the largest airports in Europe, Tempelhof re-opened as a public park in 2008. Originally the park was going to be designed by a group of internationally renowned architects, and a recent plan for its redevelopment included the creation of 4,700 new residences as well as shopping amenities. Fearing the socio-economic changes that often accompany such development projects, however, Berliners rejected this plan in a referendum in spring 2014, and its future remains open.
And so now nothing’s being built there, and….this is considered some sort of success?