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What happens when you find yourself with wasted space? You probably rearrange some items, maybe even buy new things to redecorate. But in cities all over the world, people are faced with eyesores that no longer serve their original purpose. When you can’t employ adaptive reuse, it’s time to get creative. Check out these amazing examples of what happens when you combine a little creativity and urban potential into something the entire city can enjoy.
Atlanta, Georgia: BeltLine
What do you do with 22 miles of unused railway? Transform it into something that unites an entire city. The goal of Atlanta’s BeltLine is to link all of the city’s neighborhoods, creating a brightly lit system of walkways, parks, transportation options and trails. First imagined in 1999 and still under development, the project has been met with huge enthusiasm due to the potential of the redevelopment to completely transform the city. Who would have thought old railways could bring so many positive changes to an area?
Denver, Colorado: Rocky Mountain Arsenal
When it comes to “things you’d expect to see next to a major city,” a wildlife refuge probably isn’t at the top of the list. Luckily for the people and animals of Denver, this former weapons arsenal was transformed into 15,000 acres of habitable and protected land. Aside from the sanctuary for wildlife, the refuge also offers hiking, tours, educational programs, and catch-and-release fishing, all on the grounds. Be sure to stop by and take a break from the stresses of city life if you’re in town!
Brooklyn, New York City: Brooklyn Grange
In a city notorious for never wasting space, it’s no surprise that the sustainable pros behind Brooklyn Grange managed to turn empty rooftops into something really special. Their two rooftops in Brooklyn and Queens produce over 50,000 pounds of produce each year, which is sold to local restaurants, CSA members, and to the public via farm stands. In addition, they also offer educational classes (wanna learn how to make hot sauce?), the space as a private venue, and teach future rooftop farmers how it’s done. It’s nice to see so much green in the concrete jungle.
Buffalo, New York: Canalside
Growing up in Buffalo, the waterfront was always discussed with a lot of frustration: we had the potential to turn it into a really special gathering place, but no one was making moves. But over the past couple of years, Canalside has become my favorite spot in the city. Unused space under the overpass and next to the harbor has been transformed into a concert venue, canal systems for rowboats and skating in the winter, and the perfect place to dock your boat and visit with neighbors. I’m proud to see this once empty space evolve into a spot where you can hit up the food trucks, take a kayak ride and kick back with your toes in the sand all in one day.
Koog aan de Zaan, The Netherlands: A8ernA
I had to save the best for last: after a major thruway divided the city of Koog aan de Zaan in the 1970s, the entire flow of the town was affected. It took almost 30 years of locals ignoring what they comically referred to as the “blind spot” until someone decided they needed to rework the space underneath it. The city’s residents spoke out with their ideas, which included a skate park, supermarket, graffiti gallery, parking and various sports fields. Even a mini harbor was constructed to connect with a major river, bringing the waterway back into the heart of the city. What was once an eyesore that tore a city apart is now a mini city all on it’s own!
Have any other favorite alt use projects, maybe even in your city? Let us know in the comments!