2. What’s Been and Being Done Elsewhere
Broadly speaking, there have been many projects built in highway airspace during the past half century. Mini-storage and telecommunications facilities built in highway airspace are relatively common. However, this book is about projects that knit together the torn fabric of cities by creating land in highway airspace for parks and buildings. Never before have there been as many proposed freeway caps and other freeway right-of-way projects as there are presently. Some of the more notable projects, including already-built, under construction, and planned projects, include the following:
Freeway Park, Seattle
Built in 1973, Seattle’s Freeway Park is sometimes referred to as the first public park built on a freeway cap. It was recently featured in PBS’s 10 Parks that changed America. The show featured 10 parks deemed by the show’s producers as the most influential in the U.S. The Freeway Park cap was designed by the renowned modernist landscape architecture firm Lawrence Halprin & Associates, whose projects include the FDR Memorial Park in Washington D.C. and Lovejoy Plaza in Portland, OR. Freeway Park is characterized by its multi-level plazas and modernist / brutalist concrete water features that mimic the landscape of the NorthWest. The park spans I-5 in downtown Seattle over a curved part of the freeway with ramps and multiple levels. In the 1990s and early 2000s, it became blighted and crime ridden. However, with help from the Project for Public Spaces, the city implemented measures which appear to have alleviated the blight and which make the park hospitable again. Further renovations that would preserve Halprin’s design are underway.[i]
Klyde Warren Park, Dallas Texas
(by James Burnett, its designer)
Klyde Warren Park is Dallas’ central urban park that has literally and figuratively bridged the city’s downtown cultural district with the neighborhoods to the north. The vibrant, 5.2 acre deck park brings Dallas-Fort Worth citizens together with free activities and amenities, including concerts, lectures and fitness classes. The park bridges over the 8-lane Woodall Rodgers Freeway, which had been a barrier between Downtown and Uptown. Dallas leaders formed a non-profit foundation, which was responsible for operations and maintenance of the park. Built with a combination of public and private funds, the park features a flexible, pedestrian-oriented design, children’s park, great lawn, restaurant, performance pavilion, fountain plaza, games area, dog park and botanical garden.
The park has had a major impact on the community, featuring a multitude of activities that connect Dallasites together while improving the quality of life. The park has also contributed significantly to the economic development of the surrounding urban core, increasing activity for neighboring businesses and cultural institutions and increasing property values. All of this development spurred by the park will contribute to a projected 8.8% population increase in the two Census Block Groups surrounding the park by 2017, supporting the regional goal of making metropolitan centers attractive and viable places to live. In addition to impacting real estate and property values, the park has provided several other economic benefits, including park operations and maintenance savings through sustainable design and the implementation of green technologies.
Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, Boston MA.
Known as the Big Dig during construction, the project had an inauspicious start. Construction was plagued by corruption, design flaws, substandard materials, accidents and even a death. It is often referred to as the most expensive highway project in U.S. History. Construction commenced in 1991 and was completed in 2007. It cost nearly $15 billion, although some estimates have it as high as $22 billion or more – most of it federal funding.
Despite the steep cost in both money and blood, it may also be the country’s most successful highway cap project. It spurred development and completed the city’s famed Emerald Necklace park system, originally conceived and designed by Frederick Olmstead. Among other things, the project lowered the elevated John F. Fitzgerald Kennedy Expressway (I-93) into a tunnel beneath a greenway. Prior to the project, I-93 went through the heart of Boston and its waterfront. However, the scope of the project was much broader. It sought to solve much of central Boston’s transportation flow problems in one master stroke by re-aligning, re-routing, re-ramping, and tunneling a new route (I-90) under the harbor.
The project has greatly reduced traffic congestion and travel time, and it has facilitated an increase in property values and redevelopment along the greenway that was formerly the expressway – now renamed the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.
Teralta Neighborhood Park, I-15, San Diego
It started like a latter day Robert Moses project: a major freeway extension through densely populated urban San Diego neighborhoods. However, this was the early 1980s rather than the 1960s. Residents vigorously fought the I-15 extension through San Diego’s Mid-City neighborhoods. Unfortunately, freeway expansions in California have always been, and continue to be, nearly unstoppable. The I-15 extension resulted in the demolition of hundreds of homes and the displacement of thousands of residents.
Nevertheless, the impacted neighborhoods had their own Jane Jacobses who attained several precedent setting concessions. The most important concession was a five acre park built on top of the freeway named Teralta Park. The park now hosts concerts, picnicking, children’s play areas, and an expansive grass area that can be used for recreation. Another concession included a second smaller freeway cap with space for businesses (to partially replace some of the businesses lost to the freeway). It was designed to accommodate a dedicated mass transit line. Additionally, the uncovered part of the freeway was designed to facilitate future covering as well as to contain freeway exhaust. Recently, Bus Rapid Transit stations have been built in the freeway center, in accordance with the community’s plans.
Presidio Parkway, San Francisco CA
The recently completed Presidio Parkway project consists of two freeway cap parks built over a four lane divided freeway (i.e., “parkway”). The project was originally envisioned as a freeway expansion / replacement project to improve traffic capacity, seismic stability, and driving safety on the portion of State Route 101 that feeds into the Golden Gate Bridge and connected San Francisco with Marin. However, that section of SR-101 runs through the Presidio National Park and one of the most scenic and iconic areas in the country. The caps were built to reconnect the main portion of the park with the Bay. Design and construction of the project involved the first use of a public private partnership to finance the project (described in more detail in Chapter 3).
Doyle Dr. / SR-101 before Presidio Parkway project (Sept. 2008 Google Earth)
Presidio Parkway upon completion – notice the two areas where the park extends over SR-101. (U.S.D.O.T. schematic photo)
Capitol Crossing, Washington DC.
The Capitol Crossing project in Washington DC is currently under construction and will span 3 blocks of I-395. It comprises 2.2 million square feet of development on a 7 acre site. It is a privately funded $1.3 billion project. It is precedent setting for several reasons. To date, most highway caps have used public funding to create either public park space or publicly owned facilities like convention centers. In contrast, Capital Crossing is a privately funded development consisting of commercial and residential buildings (including affordable units). Another unique aspect of the project is that it will construct four levels of below grade parking. The project also pioneers new ground on environmental fronts.This cap will utilize “eco-chimneys” to vent and filter emissions from below. These filters will result in a net reduction of fine particulate air pollution. Additionally, the development will utilize “cogeneration” from traffic in the tunnel to produce heat and electricity. The project concept dates to 1989, when then-Mayor Marion Barry awarded rights to develop I-395 to the Washington Development Group, who were succeeded by the Louis Dreyfus Property Group. Property Group Partners (PGP) acquired the development rights in 2006. PGP started construction in 2014.
Unlike other highways, the City owned this section of I-395, which was on an easement. As a result, the airspace was not subject to the regulations which make private development nearly impossible on other freeways (discussed later in this book). Accordingly, the City was able to sell the airspace for private development.
Capitol Crossing rendering courtesy of Property Group Partners
Hollywood Central Park, Los Angeles CA
At nearly 1 mile in length and 38 acres in area, Hollywood Central Park will be – upon completion – the longest freeway cap project in the country. While still a planned project rather than a built or under-construction project, Hollywood Central Park is well advanced, both in planning and fundraising. At the time of this writing, the project is entering environmental review. Hollywood Central Park, along with the Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, are probably the best examples of retrofit caps spearheaded by local communities and dedicated to open space. In the case of HCP, the vision began with architect Edward V. Hunt nearly 30 years ago, and was later revived by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. As with Klyde Warren, a non-profit organization was formed – Friends of Hollywood Central Park (FHCP) – to become the primary advocate and fundraiser for the park. In particular, former Chamber member Laurie Goldman dedicated her considerable talents to marshalling the deep resources of Hollywood, putting together an expert board, and overcoming regulatory and political hurdles to bringing the park cap much closer to reality. FHCP maintains an excellent website chronicling the project.
Chicano Park, Barrio Logan San Diego CA
Designated a National Monument in 2017, Chicano Park in San Diego’s Barrio Logan is not a freeway cap park. Rather, it is a park located on land and airspace underneath freeway overpasses and ramps at the juncture of Interstate 5 and San Diego’s Coronado Bridge (over the City’s harbor). Thus, it is in the freeway right-of-way airspace just like a freeway cap over a freeway. Accordingly, the regulatory and agency processes are nearly the same as a freeway cap.
One of the park’s most distinguishing features are murals depicting the Mexican-American (aka Chicano) experience and Barrio Logan’s history. The park arose from a grassroots resistance movement sparked by the destruction and displacement caused by freeway construction. Like many diverse working class urban neighborhoods across the country, Barrio Logan was selected for the routing of I-5 and the construction of the Coronado Bridge rather than wealthier or whiter neighborhoods. Barrio Logan, an ethnically Chicano enclave, had withstood decades of discriminatory assaults. In the face of such discrimination, the neighborhood had built-up self-sufficiency, resourcefulness, solidarity, and pride. Although unable to stop the freeway and bridge routing (built in 1963 and 1969 respectively), the space underneath the freeway and bridge ramps became the focal point of community activism toward recovering the land for a neighborhood park. The state had other plans, including the construction of a California Highway Patrol Station. In response, community activists occupied the park and began converting it into a public park, landscaping it and painting murals on the overpass support structures – all without permission or permits. The murals told the history and struggles of the Chicano movement. In 1970, the activists succeeded in getting the state to cancel the CHP station and accept the park. In 1980, the City of San Diego designated the park a historic landmark. In 1987, the City designated the murals as public art. In 2013, the park was listed on the National Register of Historic places, and 2017 it was named a National Historic Landmark. It is part of a small subset of the approximately 2,500 U.S. National Historic Landmarks that celebrate the culture and history of minority groups.
 PBS (2016), 10 Parks that changed America, Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/program/ten-that-changed-america/10-parks-changed-america/ (The show was part of a series entitled 10 that changed America and included an episode on 10 homes, 10 buildings, 10 towns, and 10 parks.)
 Wachs, A., (April 10, 2018), Preservation-minded renovation of Halprin’s Freeway Park moves forward, The Architects Newspaper, Retrieved on May 1, 2018.
 See also Presdio Parkway Press Center for more images at http://www.presidioparkway.org/press_center/photos/
 According to the Capitol Crossing Developers, Property Group Partners, Eco-Chimneys cost approx. $50 million and were required by FHWA as part of a new policy. FHWA added enormous cost and time to the project by redundant engineering and design. Capitol Crossing did not involve an airspace lease. In an unusual circumstance, the city owned the land underneath, and in turn, the air rights above, the highway (I-395). FHWA had an easement for the highway. This not the usual circumstance, where the highway land has been acquired by eminent domain. Conversation with David A. Happ, Senior Vice President Leasing and Operations, PGP Partners.
 Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, LLP, Capitol Crossing, SOM website description of project retrieved from: http://www.som.com/projects/capitol_crossing
 Neibauer, Richard (March 27, 2012), I-395 air rights project now Capitol Crossing, Washington Business Journal, retrieved from: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/2012/03/i-395-air-rights-now-capitol-crossing.html
 Hollywood Central Park website. Retrieved January 15, 2017 from http://hollywoodcentralpark.org/
 Torero, M., Beltran, B., Adams, W. (Nov. 1, 2016). Barrio Logan vs the Stadium: Why it Matters. UrbDeZine. Retrieved from https://sandiego.urbdezine.com/2016/10/29/barrio-logan-vs-stadium-matters/
 Chicano Park. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved September 14, 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicano_Park
 Warth, G. (Jan. 11, 2017). Chicano Park named National Historic Landmark. San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved from: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/sd-me-chicano-historic-20170111-story.html
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