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Freeway Cap Parks A Great Idea, but Not a New One

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, January 01, 2008, at 11:07AM
Seattle Freeway Park Across Main Fountains ken mccown [Flickr]

Landscaping inside Seattle's Freeway Park, opened in 1976.

Yesterday Curbed listed "freeway cap parks" as its winner in the urban planning "Idea of the Year" category, referencing proposals to cap the 101 in Hollywood and the 110 south of Downtown to provide green space. While these two L.A. proposals did pop up in 2007, the idea of freeway parks in neither new nor an L.A. invention.

Seattle's Freeway Park occupies 5.2 acres above the 5 freeway and was opened on July 4th, 1976. Funding for the park came from a 1968 Seattle Bond measure passed as part of the "Forward Thrust" program, tasked with creating parks as balance for density.

Similarly, L.A.'s had its own ideas for freeway park space. A 1985 proposal by the Air Rights Development Corporation would have constructed an office building and 250-room hotel on the tiny strip of land just west of the 110 between 4th and 6th streets, capping over the freeway with a pedestrian-park bridge that would link the complex to Downtown's financial district. The project was killed by the opposition of neighbors, including Unocal Corporation, whose Downtown headquarters (now L.A. Center Studios) was just next door.

A few years later Downtown saw another over-freeway idea. In 1988 the "Steel Cloud" would have risen over the 101 as it passed through the Civic Center. The fascinatingly bizarre monument would have included aquariums and movie screens. The project engendered quite mixed opinions, and was never built.

One can only hope that the proposals of today have a little better success.

Photo of Seattle's Freeway Park by leff.

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