I have noticed several projects lately that are reclaiming land for public spaces. I love how a spot that was once concrete or a random unused plot can be turned into an area of beauty and usefulness.
San Francisco has a 3 areas where they've closed certain streets to make either gardens or gathering spots.
One of these areas was created by Rebar, a San Francisco art and design collective, who is also responsible for the very cool PARK(ing) day event. PARK(ing) Day is an annual, one-day, global event where artists, activists, and citizens independently but simultaneously temporarily transform metered parking spots into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public parks.
Also here in San Francisco there is also a little plot of land near an off ramp of the freeway which has been tended into a garden. Caltrans even gave permission for a very motivated neighbor to transform the space (not without some parameters, though). It has been an intriguing project because not only has it made the space so much more beautiful, useful, and interesting it has also brought together many folks from the community.
Of course there is also the famous example of the High Line in NYC, which I have yet to visit in person. It looks amazing. The High Line was originally constructed in the 1930s, to lift dangerous freight trains off Manhattan's streets. Section 1 of the High Line is open as a public park, owned by the City of New York and operated under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. When all sections are complete, the High Line will be a mile-and-a-half-long elevated park, running through several neighborhoods on the West Side. It features an integrated landscape, combining meandering concrete pathways with naturalistic plantings. Fixed and movable seating, lighting, and special features are also included in the park.
It is so inspiring that these efforts to maximize public spaces are making the environments more useful and appealing.
* I had hoped to have loads of images to share of these spaces, but am having some trouble obtaining them. Click the links to see the fabulous spaces. I'll add the images if I can sort it out.