Cities and Urbanization

A breath of fresh air: How three disused industrial areas became beautiful parks

People walk along High Line park on a warm autumn day in New York November 11, 2014. The High Line, renovated into a public park, was formerly an elevated railway 30 feet above the city's West Side that was built in 1934 for freight trains hauling dairy products, produce and meats and had become derelict after the rail closed in 1980.     REUTERS/John Schults (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY CITYSCAPE) - GM1EABC1B7I01

New York City's High Line is one example of how cities around the world are transforming former industrial sites. Image: REUTERS/John Schults

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Cities and Urbanization

  • 7.6 million people a year visit New York City’s High Line
  • A giant landfill in Tel Aviv has become green space and recycling facilities
  • Germany’s Ruhr industrial region is now home to a 450km² park

Cities around the world are revitalizing their industrial zones, with former warehouses and factories becoming prime real estate.

But what about more green space to keep children healthy, reduce our stress levels and support biodiversity?

Have you read?

Here’s a look at three inspiring examples of former industrial areas given a new lease on life as parks.

The High Line, New York City

In 2009, a unique park opened in New York on the site of an old industrial railway track. Once known as the West Side Elevated Line, it transported millions of tons of food across the city, cutting through factories on its way.

Once slated for demolition, the High Line is now home to public spaces and gardens with more than 500 species of plants. And 7.6 million people a year visit the the site and enjoy free community programmes, artwork and performances.

New York City’s High Line walkway was once a rail line that cut among the skyscrapers.
New York City’s High Line is a former rail line to deliver food across the city. Image: High Line
The High Line park runs for 2.4 km above the streets of New York.
Today, the High Line park runs for 2.4 km above the streets of New York. Image: Reuters/Mike Segar
Ariel Sharon Park, Tel Aviv

In Tel Aviv, a massive garbage dump has been turned into a green space three times the size of New York City’s Central Park, as part of a large-scale environmental rehabilitation project.

Over 50 years, the former Hiriya landfill accumulated 16 million cubic metres of waste. Its transformation will incorporate wetlands and facilities for the recycling and treatment of waste, including tires, batteries, and construction materials, as well as a biogas fuelling station.

For 50 years, Hiriya landfill, outside Tel Aviv was the dumping ground for much of the country’s waste.
For 50 years, Tel Aviv's Hiriya landfill was the dumping ground for much of the country’s waste. Image: Reuters/Gil Cohen Magen
Today, Hiriya has become Ariel Sharon Park, housing art exhibitions like this one made of recycled materials.
Today, Hiriya has become Ariel Sharon Park, with art exhibitions like this one made of recycled materials. Image: Reuters/Nir Elias
Emscher Landscape Park, Ruhr Valley

The Emscher Landscape Park stretches across 450km² of Germany’s Ruhr Valley, which was once the country’s industrial heartland, studded with factories and coal mines.

Its conversion to parkland began in 1989 and is still ongoing. Today, visitors can cycle along old railway tracks, picnic in disused steelworks and admire after-dark light displays in blast furnaces.

The river running through the park was once the dirtiest in Germany. Now, underground canals channel wastewater away, and the coal and lime that once fell from goods trains has made way for more than 240 plant and animal species.

Seen from above before its transformation, the Westpark Bochum is a tangle of industrial buildings.
Westpark Bochum before its transformation to parkland. Image: Regionalverband Ruhr
Today, visitors to Westpark Bochum, part of the Emscher Landscape Park, can picnic beside former steelworks.
Today, Westpark Bochum is part of the Emscher Landscape Park. Image: Regionalverband Ruhr

Around the world, land degradation caused by human activity is putting 3.2 billion people at risk because of pollution, a loss of biodiversity and threats to food security, clean water and energy supplies.

Regeneration plays a critical role in protecting the planet – with help from parks like these.

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