Financing for US park project heralded as example for UK

New York's iconic High Line is a stellar example of how to manage and raise money for parks and green spaces in the UK, a Garden Museum conference heard last week.

High Line - IMAGE: Landscape Institute
High Line - IMAGE: Landscape Institute

Founders of the High Line told of how they raised $100m and $4.5m annual upkeep costs for the 1.6km-long park visited by 4.4 million people this year. The free-access public park, part of an elevated disused freight line, has generated $900m in associated income.

Josh David and Rob Hammond said to win the case for a park they framed their argument in positive terms such as investing in the city's future economy. Most conservation messages focused on stopping development.

Hammond said: "We wanted something special. If it was for a fifth of the cost it might have been harder to fund. Sometimes it is easier to raise $1m than $10,000. A higher goal can give a more compelling vision."

Garden Museum director Christopher Woodward said: "This is far from the patronising idea of the Victorian park run by a local authority and visited by the working classes parading in their Sunday best. I would like to fly every park manager to New York to show them the High Line. It will transform their sense of what's possible."

Conference chair, economist and BBC presenter Evan Davis said: "The High Line is wonderful. It's a case study for a school of horticulture or design and is also an example of solid entrepreneurship."

But landscape architect Noel Farrer said: "It seems success was about delivering an economic argument, so land values go up and sanitising seems to occur. The people you most want to reach will move because land values have gone up."

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