We can only imagine what Greensboro's Downtown Greenway will be like when completed, though workers have laid asphalt for the path through the Warnersville neighborhood already. The complete experience remains a few months away when the "softscape" is installed once the summer's heat has faded (image, right).
In the meantime, linear park enthusiasts in Greensboro can look to New York for a glimpse of what our urban pathway might some day feel like. An article in today's New York Times reviews the favorable public reaction to the High Line, an abandoned over-street industrial rail line that snakes over the streets of the Chelsea neighborhood in western Manhattan. “Here people tend to be more friendly,” says Kathy Roberson in the article, “Those same people, you might see them someplace else and, you know, they’re kind of stressed.” Here in Greensboro, the Downtown Greenway is expected to promote the health and wellbeing of Greensboro's center city population in the same manner by providing safe opportunities for outdoor exercise or relaxing contemplation.
The article points out that the High Line has already developed It has its own economy, including pre-packaged lunches, an art scene with drawing students and photographers, and micro-neighborhoods and hot spots that shift in feel throughout the day. The Downtown Greenway will likely function on a similar level by spurring economic development along its length and by celebrating local history and neighborhood character through the use of innovative and exciting works of public art. One such piece, created by Rhode Island artist Brower Hatcher, will anchor the southwestern quadrant of the park just off Lee Street (image).
Certainly Greensboro is not Manhattan, and though portions of our own Downtown Greenway will someday occupy a presently active industrial railroad bed like the New York park, most of our park will remain on terra firma. However, the community excitement and character-building comparisons will likely be similar. Like the High Line, the Downtown Greenway will become a signature feature of the Gate City that will profile our community's innovation and artistic prowess. The combination of art and nature juxtaposed within an urban setting will likely draw visitors from around Greensboro, not just the adjoining neighborhoods.
Great things are in store for Greensboro. In the meantime, the High Line in Manhattan will have to suffice as a temporary (and distant) fix.