With the runaway success of New York’s High Line, it’s not surprising that other cities are developing similar projects. Even LA’s portside neighbor Wilmington, a place known primarily for its heavy industry and original Der Wienerschnitzel restaurant, has a High-Line inspired plan.
Wilmington’s version, for now known as the Harry Bridges Boulevard Buffer, neither extends along an abandoned railroad nor is it particularly narrow like New York’s prototype. Instead, it consists of a 30-acre, nine-block-wide stretch of sloping land that separates the busy Port of Wilmington from a residential neighborhood to the north. The $55 million project is well underway and set to be completed by next summer.
The Port of LA first acquired the land for an expansion of its container terminal, but after a public outcry, it decided to give the stretch back to the public. It has recently made public access a general priority, with new park spaces planned for San Pedro, Avalon, and elsewhere in Wilmington.
“We went from a very adversarial relationship with the Wilmington community to a real partnership,” explained Chris Brown, the Port of LA’s manager on the project, who has sat in on several public meetings. Brown adds that the port also went from designing a 20-foot-high sound wall to the current berm plan, which adds public parkland to a structure still designed to block out noise, pollution, and visual blight. “People didn’t want to feel disconnected from the water,” he said.
The new park, designed by San Francisco– and Boston-based Sasaki Associates, will stretch 3,000 feet wide and slope in an angular fashion from a flat area known as the Great Lawn up to about 15 feet above grade, with a walkway along the top—labeled the Paseo—affording views of the Port’s massive shipping containers as well as the ocean in the distance. “It’s an amazingly unique perspective; something you can’t see anywhere else,” said Brown.
Other features will include tree groves, open lawns, pavilions, fountains, and an amphitheater. To break up the mass and ease circulation, the berm will have several openings connected via pedestrian bridges. One bridge, a steel span structure designed by Arup, will be the centerpiece of the design.
The park will integrate sustainable ideas like photovoltaics on its structures, drought-tolerant plantings, bioswales for stormwater filtration, an irrigation system using reclaimed water, and extensive tree planting, covering about a quarter of the site.
The park, a major new amenity for this park-poor area, will be tailor-made to host Wilmington’s biggest event in late June: the Fiesta del Carazon del Puerto (Heart of the Harbor Fiesta). Acknowledging that similarities to the High Line in New York are tenuous at best, Sasaki principal Stephen Hamwey said, “The High Line was working with that existing platform. We basically created this from scratch to get people up there.”