The Next Level: California’s Twin Elevated Park Concepts

Who says parks have to be on the ground? Elevated parks are gaining popularity all over the world, with one of the most notable being the High Line in New York. As public favor for these sky-high recreational spaces continues to grow, more cities are unveiling plans for elevated parks. These are two of the most recent – and most fascinating – designs to emerge.

Park 101, Los Angeles

(image via: California DOT)

LA is serious about a downtown revitalization effort, and it shows in the care that’s been put into developing the Park 101 idea. The proposal consists of a half-mile-long urban park that transforms a section above Hollywood Freeway (US 101) into a natural haven in the middle of the city. Currently, the freeway bisects the downtown area and makes it difficult for pedestrians to access many important areas. The park would provide an important “bridge” between the north and south sides of the freeway while restoring some green space to the urban setting.

(image via: California DOT)

The massive pedestrian-friendly Park 101 will include a large freeway-level parking structure to encourage people to leave their cars behind and walk their way through downtown. Buildings at both ends of the park are planned for mixed use development such as retail space and residences. At the western edge on Grand Avenue, two tall towers will welcome visitors. At the eastern edge of the park, the anchor buildings will be smaller and more modest to blend in with existing architecture.

(images via: California DOT)

The project is still in the planning and fund-raising stages, but overall it looks like a very positive change for the area. One of the project’s goals is to make Los Angeles a more sustainable and pedestrian-friendly city which it will almost certainly accomplish. But just as importantly, the project planners hope to bring together two sides of LA which have historically been divided by a huge freeway running between them. The proposal focuses not only on the environmental impact of the park, but on the positive cultural impact as well.

Transbay Transit Center, San Francisco

(image via: Transbay Center)

As part of a massive new transit center design, San Francisco will soon welcome a huge 5.4 acre elevated park. The Transbay Transit Center will house 12 transit systems and the city’s new high-speed rail terminus, but the green roof is the icing on the cake. The design, created by Pelli Clark Pelli Architecture, will reside in downtown San Francisco and is destined to become a new cultural center for the already-rich downtown area.

(image via: Transbay Center)

The building itself will be a beautiful addition to the city’s architecture, with a shape inspired by swaying tree trunks. But high above the transit hubs contained within, the City Park atop the building will become an attraction of its own. The space will incorporate cafes, retail areas, playgrounds, public art exhibits, an amphitheater and display gardens with climate-appropriate plants.

It might be hard to imagine now: a green public space high above street level in downtown San Francisco? But the transit center project will soon be a reality. The project is slated for completion sometime in 2017. When finished, the rooftop park will provide both active and tranquil spaces for people who are traveling through the city or those who live nearby and simply need a break. Using space that would typically be wasted – the top of a building – is not only a brilliant planning technique; it’s a great way to save energy. The green roof will help cut down on utility costs, and the building incorporates several other energy-saving features to make it an overall win for the city.

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