Several cities are tearing down highways, creating bold new public spaces -- and building a future without cars
Everyone freak out: Carmageddon is back. Right now, several U.S. cities are scheming to shut down major freeways — permanently. In the push to take back cities from cars, this is what you’d call throwing down the gauntlet.
The drive to tear down the huge freeways that many blame for the inner-city blight of the ’60s and ’70s is one of the most dramatic signs of the new urban order. Proponents of such efforts have data to show that freeway removal is not at all bizarre, that we can return to human-size streets without causing a gridlock apocalypse. And that may be true. But pulling down these shrines to the automobile also feels like a bold rewriting of America’s 20th-century urban script: Revenge of the Pedestrian. This time it’s personal.
Ready or not, decision time is upon us. Many of these highways were built to last between 40 and 50 years — they’ll soon need to be either repaired or reinvented. “What’s going to happen in the next 10 years when we need to make a big investment to prevent them from collapsing like the one in Minneapolis?” asks John Renne, professor of urban studies at the University of New Orleans.
For some cities, this means a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reclaim a vast amount of downtown land and turn it into the public space of their dreams. A group in St. Louis is agitating for the removal of a one-and-a-half mile stretch of Interstate 70, which would reunite the city center with the Mississippi River and Eero Saarinen’s Gateway Arch. Advocates there hope that by opening the city’s “front door,” as they call it, for the first time since 1964, they’ll set the stage for a renaissance of St. Louis’ depopulated downtown. Trenton, N.J., has a similar goal, and is looking at converting the four-lane highway that runs along the Delaware River into a vibrant waterfront of parks and buildings. And as New Orleans implements a new master plan for the city following Hurricane Katrina, anything seems possible — including a pitch to tear down the Claiborne Expressway, the freeway that divided several of the city’s historically black neighborhoods when it was erected decades ago. It would be replaced with a vibrant boulevard that reunites those neighborhoods in an infrastructural act of poetic justice.
It’s hard to overstate the gravity of such proposals. Few urban design initiatives can instantly transform a large swath of a city like building (or unbuilding) a freeway. San Francisco saw this in 1991, when, ahead of the tear-down trend, the city demolished the bay-adjacent double-decker Embarcadero Freeway after it was damaged in an earthquake. Today, the area where the Embarcadero once stood has evolved from a forbidding dead zone to a bustling waterfront and tourist magnet. Standing there now, you’d never guess it was once the site of 16 lanes of through-traffic.
Now, other cities want their own Embarcadero miracle. Tony Ortiz lives in Crotona Park East, the Bronx neighborhood made famous when President Carter visited its burned-out ruins in the ’70s. Ortiz, an 84-year-old, white-haired bantam rooster of a man, moved here from Puerto Rico in 1946, and remembers life before the Sheridan Expressway. The sidewalks were “busier with people,” he says, standing in front of his six-story building a block from the expressway. He and his friends boxed in the streets, where he once proudly knocked one of them out cold. But after the Sheridan was built, Ortiz mainly remembers a neighborhood in decline and the stench of arson.
Today, the area, while still poor, has bounced back considerably. And now, New York is studying plans to tear down the Sheridan, which runs along the Bronx River right past Ortiz’s window, and replace it with a stretch of waterfront parkland. It could include swimming pools, soccer fields, a 30,000-square-foot recreation center and housing similar to that which was bulldozed to make way for the freeway back in 1958.
It would be a dazzling turn of events for an area that time once nearly forgot. But would removing the freeway really revive the neighborhood in and of itself? Probably not. Because even though Ortiz remembers the Sheridan as the moment prosperity turned to blight, the truth is, places like Crotona Park East probably would have declined anyway. These were neighborhoods that almost certainly would have succumbed to depopulation, crime and the crack epidemic, freeway or no, simply because they were vulnerable communities during a difficult time.
But even if freeways weren’t the lone catalysts of decline, removing them could still spur positive change. Cities are vastly more resilient places today than they were in the 1960s. In 2011, revitalization is more possible than ever – you just need to lay the groundwork for it. Ask John Norquist, who, as mayor of Milwaukee, presided over the demolition of the Park East Freeway in 2002. The elevated structure was “the death of any property around it,” Norquist says. Now, a concerted effort to draw new businesses seems to finally be panning out. After a slow start, the reclaimed area has 24 acres of parks, waterfront and burgeoning commercial development. Manpower Group, the temp agency giant, recently relocated there from the suburbs, and the space is connected by a riverfront recreational trail to the “Beerline,” a stretch of new middle-class development along the city’s old freight tracks.
The boldest tear-down proposal, however, might be in New Orleans, where local activists are working to restore a corridor that was once the pride of the city’s African-American business community. Claiborne Avenue, an elegant boulevard famous for its hundreds of oak trees, once formed the shopping district of Treme and several other black neighborhoods. But in the late 1960s, the avenue was plowed under, and soon the Claiborne Expressway was rising in its place. (You can hear it being built to the ominous sound of pile drivers during the bad-trip cemetery scene in “Easy Rider.”)
The proposal for the Claiborne corridor would remake the avenue much like the old one (minus the oaks), stitch it into the street grid, and let businesses grow alongside. It would also reunite the neighborhoods the freeway divided, allowing residents of the north side to benefit from the south side’s proximity to the French Quarter. As for gentrification fears, John Renne doesn’t foresee an influx of wealthy people displacing the current residents. “If there’s a pendulum and gentrification is on one side, we’re on the other side,” he says. “We’re in blight. It would have to swing pretty far to get to gentrification.” Polls show the city is behind the plan — now activists need to get Mayor Mitch Landrieu on board. The mayor has called it a potential “game changer” but has not officially thrown his support behind it.
Where do these grand plans leave the lowly car commuter? In pretty good shape, as it turns out. In case you haven’t been on an urban freeway lately, allow me to blow your mind: They don’t work like they’re supposed to. They’re quick to deteriorate, clogged at all the wrong times and offer little versatility when problems arise — one collision can make 10,000 people late for work. In fact, the dirty secret of freeways is that they don’t reduce traffic, they create it. Ask any urban planner: Give people more roads, and more of them will drive. Studies show that, in most cases, removing a freeway adds only a few extra minutes to commute times. At the same time, most of the freeways currently on the chopping block are underused anyway. (The day I drove to the Bronx to meet Tony Ortiz, the Sheridan was empty enough to walk across.) The drivers-versus-transit-riders stereotype doesn’t hold, either: A study by Renne’s students found that in New Orleans, the vast majority of locals want the Claiborne Expressway gone — including 50 percent of the drivers who use it regularly. “No one’s advocating for putting [the freeway] back” in Milwaukee now that it’s gone, says Norquist, and getting rid of it “killed forever the idea of putting a freeway around the downtown.”
Improved traffic flow, fewer roads to maintain, nicer neighborhoods — what’s not to love? The funny thing about freeways: People get attached to them, even when they do more harm than good. Renne’s students found a small segment of the community around the Claiborne had grown fond of it, even those who didn’t use it. Some feared gentrification if it were removed. And a few felt an emotional bond with their elevated highway — one local resident expressed dismay that his tradition of barbecuing under the expressway with his son might end.
But such opinions are anomalies. For most residents of these communities, tearing down the freeways that crashed through their neighborhoods half a century ago would rectify a long-standing injustice. Removing urban freeways could open up whole new business districts, provide space for parks where they’re needed most, free up land for affordable housing, and create vast new waterfront tourist meccas. In Seoul, South Korea, one freeway demolition even unearthed a river that runs right through the city. Buried by the highway for 30 years, the Cheonggyecheon Stream has since become a popular recreation spot, and the mayor who tore down the freeway to reveal it was elected president in a landslide soon afterward. Apparently his supporters had no trouble getting to the polls.
Are these guys deserving, in the name of free markets and capitalism to make this kind of cash?
After all, they have done the unthinkable, generating historically unseen profits smack in the middle of a global recession.
Are we, the sheeple, just plain stupid to agree to get fleeced with banking charges, interest rates, outrageous mortgage discharge penalties, double interact charges etc without uttering one peep of disapproval.
Bank of Canada’s rate prime today is three percent; your credit card is 18%, six times or 600% mark up.
On top of it all, the banks have got us the people insuring their CMHC loans, so if someone does default on their mortgage, it’s not the bank that bears the brunt of the loses, it’s the tax payers.
Machiavelli would be proud at this kind an arrangement.
And we, the sheeple, well, imho, we’re gonna have to put the remotes down and start paying attention to what is going on around us-cause it is exploitation at the highest level.
Hamilton’s Transportation Transformation Research Report Concludes That Select Property Owners Will Receive a 10 - 20% Increase in Their Property Values
May 10, 2011 — The Real Estate Investment Network (REIN™) a Division of Cutting Edge Research Inc. is pleased to release its second edition of The Hamilton Transportation Effect, which details the impact of the upcoming transportation improvements on housing in the Hamilton area. The report’s research concludes that prices in select Hamilton neighbourhoods will receive a 10% to 20% premium, over and above what the rest of the city’s market does in the coming years.
As more people flock to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) for the job opportunities, the demand on the Area’s infrastructure and housing market will continue to escalate. As a result, people will make the decision to move further outside Toronto, turning instead to surrounding communities to find accommodations to either rent or buy that fit their budget. Hamilton’s lower housing prices and the short driving distance to Toronto appeal to people who work in the city, but want to live outside its borders. By 2031, the population of Hamilton is expected to increase another 32%, which translates into 105,000 new jobs, and subsequently, if left unchecked, 180,000 additional auto driver trips per day that will need to be accommodated by the road network.
The City of Hamilton hopes to turn to light rail technology to curb traffic congestion. The announcement of five proposed rapid transit lines in Hamilton lead the REIN team to undertake a research report on the impacted neighourhoods.
REIN’s detailed research has found that there are three “Tiers of Impact” that will occur in the Hamilton region:
First Tier: Neighbourhoods located near the on and off ramps to the Red Hill Valley Parkway. These include: McQuestern East and West, Barton, Nashdale, Kentley, Glenview East, Corman, Red Hill, King’s Forest and Albion Falls.
Second Tier: Includes areas that will also be positively impacted by the easier access and traffic flow created by the Highway 8 link to the Red Hill Valley Parkway. This will allow commuters from as far away as Toronto and Oakville to cut key minutes off their drive.
Third Tier: Areas that are within 800 meters of the proposed LRT and GO train stations in Hamilton. These areas will move up to second tier once the official announcements are made as to exact locations, then eventually move to first tier once the actual construction begins. Communities impacted by future LRT lines include: Ainslie Wood, Cootes Paradise, Westdale South, Beasley, Corktown, Kentley, Greenford, Green Acres Park, North Glanford, Ryckmans, Mewburn, Sheldon, Kennedy East, Allison, Greeningdon, Balfour, Bonnington, Yeoville, Rolston, Buchanan, Mohawk, Southam, Centremount, Durand, Corktown, Beasley, Central Hamilton, North End, Ancaster, Mohawk Meadows, Bruleville, Burkholme, northern Crerar, northern Rushdale, Hill Park, Lawfield, Crown Point, northern Homeside, Ancaster, Leckie Park, the Elfrida growth area, Corman, Riverdale, and Winona.
When the LRT stations are completed, communities within an 800-metre radius of these transportation improvements can anticipate a 10%–20% increase in their property values. The largest effect will be felt in older and more established neighbourhoods.
The 2011 Hamilton Transportation Effect report reviews the peer-reviewed academic research that has been conducted on the impact of light rail, highway expansion and road improvements in other parts of the world.
About REIN™ Founded in 1993, the Real Estate Investment Network™ (REIN™) has grown over the years to become Canada's leading real estate research, investment and education organization. It serves more than 3,000+ member clients who own more than 26,000 properties (valued at over $3.3 billion) across the country. Members use the unbiased research and proven systems to invest in properties in economically strong regions across the country. REIN™ does not sell or market real estate to its members or the general public, but instead conducts objective and unbiased research, analysis and investor education.
For more information please visit www.reincanada.com
The Hamilton Transportation Effect report is available free to the public upon request by emailing the Real Estate Investment Network at firstname.lastname@example.org
More proof that Hamilton Real Estate Market, residential or/and investment sectors is where to be and where to do business---with logic!!
Real estate here is still reasonable and a low-income middle class (in my opinion, a family with combined earnings of under $40,000) family can STILL buy a house within 20 minutes from down town.
The Toronto market is so distorted, so inflated and perfectly poised, along with Vancouver, for a tumble. One bump in interest rates and superficial twits are going to be moving right back in with their parents.
In Hamilton, for this kind of money, you can buy up to a fifteen unit apartment building and generate an income; you can buy eight detached homes in rock solid family neighbourhoods and generate a monthly income of eight grand or $96,000/yr.
I’m going to bet ten bucks this “student” doesn’t close on this, she will realize that the attention she got is not the kind of attention anyone needs.
Here is the article;
This Toronto bungalow sold for $421,800 over asking. Yes, really!!!!!!!!!!!!
As hard as it's becoming to shock jaded Torontonians with bidding war antics, one young woman managed it last week when she beat out 17 rivals for a house in Willowdale.
The asking price was $759,000; her triumphant bid was $1,180,800.
Her prize? A pleasant three-bedroom bungalow that hasn't had a whole lot of updating since it was built in the 1960s or so.
An offer $421,800 above the asking price is a lot to absorb and a reader e-mailed to say that folks in the neighbourhood were all talking about it.
Michael Adelson and Sam Samivand of ReMax Realtron, who represented the seller, expected more than asking, but not 56 per cent more.
“We thought the market would take it to its logical level – and the market took it to its illogical level,” quipped Mr. Adelson.
The house is within walking distance of the Yonge subway line and stands in the Earl Haig Secondary School district, which is popular with parents. The lot is not particularly deep but it is 60 feet wide, which makes it appealing to some builders.
Mr. Adelson says that four bids came in above $1-million on offer day. The agents gave those four competitors the chance to increase their bids and alter any conditions attached to their offers. He also looks for a hefty deposit in the form of a certified cheque in order to protect the seller.
“It's amazing and it's a little bit scary as well, to be honest,” says Mr. Adelson of the action on this one. “When you get a price like this, it's off the chart.”
In previous sales nearby, bungalows have sold short of $900,000.
Mr. Adelson worries that offers have become so rich that deals may fall through if a bank has the house appraised before providing a mortgage. If the sale price is too far out of line with appraised value, the bank may be unwilling to provide financing.
In this case the successful bidder is a university student originally from China with family money behind her, says Mr. Adelson. She assured the agents there would be no problem in closing the deal.
Mr. Adelson says he has been selling in the area for nearly 30 years and has trouble remembering a house in the past 10 that hasn't received multiple offers.
“We've been expecting a market correction for some time and it doesn't come.”
He sees so much appetite among buyers now that he's not certain there will be a cooling any time soon.