Design and Conquer: The High Line's Attraction-Packed Final Phase Completes DS+R's Chelsea Takeover

A concept for an amphitheater at the High Line's 10th Avenue Spur
(© James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Courtesy City of New York and Friends of the High Line)

Delivering a trilogy whose third installment actually exceeds the first and second (unlike "Star Wars" and more like "Indiana Jones"), the City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation, along with Friends of the High Line, finally unveiled plans for the highly-anticipated last phase of the celebrated, elevated park in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood.

The initial design concepts for the final stretch of the former industrial railroad line take off where the second phase ended at West 30th Street in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, running west toward Twelfth Avenue and wrapping around Hudson Yards up to West 34th Street. Like previous phases, the design dream team of James Corner Field Operations and  DS+R are replacing the overgrown weeds with lush landscaping, but with a few innovative touches. The third phase includes the 10th Avenue Spur, an extension that formerly connected with the US Postal Service's Morgan Processing and Distribution Center so that freight trains could transport parcels from the upper-floor loading docks fo the post office building. It remains the widest part of the High Line, affording the designers a world of possibilities. The current proposed concepts include amphitheater-like seating, or an open gathering space bordered by beds of wildflowers.

They’re taking those distinctive benches of which we’ve already grown fond and transforming them with brand new variations: planting beds, workspaces, seesaws, and picnic tables with the charming and streamlined frame rising out of the walkway. A new, irregularly-spiraling staircase trumps those clunky metal predecessors. The most eye-catching feature planned for the park third phase is the children’s play area, where the support beams have been stripped and coated with bright yellow safety rubber, perfect to climb around on. The not-yet-constructed residential and office complex Hudson Yards has also been taken into account in the design, providing a 70-foot-tall passageway complete with planting beds and balconies directly incorporated into one of the towers. 

Of course, as with any good ending, there are kinks to work out before we reach the conclusion. During Hudson Yards construction, the path to the West of the Rail Yards will feature a temporary design, with a simple path cutting through the existing “self-sown grasses and wildflowers.” The city is also pursuing an amendment to current zoning laws to secure the Eastern Rail Yards as a public open space, as well as a framework that would require Related Companies, the developer of Hudson Yards, to provide funding for the High Line. The total cost of the third phase is an estimated $90 million. 

Meanwhile, DS+R have their hands full with projects in the surrounding area, including a building in the Hudson Yards complex that also happens to be their first skyscraper, as well as an arts center to the east of the park. "For us it represents and opportunity to do an ensemble urban project," Elizabeth Diller told the Wall Street Journal. "We're very conscious of the adjacency to the High Line."

Friends of the High Line and the City of New York hope to complete most of the construction by the end of 2013, with a full public opening in spring 2014. 

To see renderings of the last installment of the High Line, click the slide show