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Industry Updates

Today’s Highway Could Be Tomorrow’s Community Project


The construction industry is always finding new ways to use old spaces. For example, Fast Company reports that cities are taking urban highways constructed in the 20th century and replacing them with projects that bring neighborhoods together.

The city of Providence, R.I., took the piers that previously supported a highway and  left them in place to be part of a pedestrian bridge that now acts as park space. It also connects the downtown area with waterfront parks and an innovation district, which was all built on land that was uncovered when the highway was removed.

Other projects have included the removal of a highway in Seattle for a surface-level road and waterfront open space, as well as a highway on-ramp in Albany, N.Y., that was converted into a pedestrian bridge. But the magazine notes that these changes also can benefit their regions economically.

Architects on the Providence project told Fast Company that the bridge received attention for its cost of $21.9 million. New housing and commercial research space will be built in the neighborhood, which will allow the project to pay for itself in new taxes over five to six years, the designers say.

Michael Guthrie, a founding design principal at Inform Studio, which co-designed the Providence bridge, told Fast Company that many cities have difficulty economically justifying such projects.

“So being able to do feasibility studies using this type of thing as a precedent and then forecast is really helpful for them being able to find ways to fund it,” he said. “What we’ve seen is it not only is incredibly transformational from the public space side, but even from the economic development side.”