New York's High Line park is the sort of urban-renewal triumph most cities would leave their significant others for. Through nonprofit fund-raising and through later government largess as well, an old, abandoned railroad line 30 feet above the lower West Side of Manhattan was transformed into a chic nexus for hip shops, luxury condos and even a wing of the Whitney Museum. Property values shot up; the city collected more property taxes; and important Manhattanites found another place to walk their adorable tiny dogs. It was win-win-win.
Some are openly imagining a park like the High Line for Boston—only on a much grander scale. Where the High Line currently runs to a mile and will only go about four blocks more, an "Urban Ring" around the Hub would enwreath the region. Per George Thrush in Boston Magazine:
See the drawing below, and you’ll see the basic outline of a new civic, public ring linking Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Somerville, Chelsea, and Everett into a larger, connected, public sphere. Imagine bike lanes, parks, and public amenities all connected by urban landscape.
We have the rail-line that crosses from the Allston yards at the BU Bridge, and all across MIT to Somerville, Chelsea, Everett, and East Boston. This is one-half of the alignment sometimes considered for the Urban Ring. The remainder could be composed of a re-worked “Haul Road” in South Boston, and Melnea Cass Boulevard in Roxbury. A great deal of this land is already available and ready to be designed.
And such a vision isn’t so hard to imagine, nor so expensive to achieve, especially when one considers the increase in tax revenue that the subsequent development would generate. A new Urban Ring, so conceived, would create a regional identity for a collection of small cities and towns that still lack one.
And you could walk your big dogs along it, Boston. For now, the Urban Ring is, at best, a well-meaning idea, one far from implementation and the sort of mega-project that makes every sentient Hub-dweller's mind erupt in memories of the Big Dig. Still, if New York can do it...