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INTERACTIVE

A concept for InterPlay Park called “The Window” would allow visitors to observe road traffic below. Image by Terrain Work.

Freeway Park in Seattle, Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston and Klyde Warren Park in Dallas. Although all three highway bridge parks are known outside of their home towns for their bold design and engineering, this is the third, per OJB, which has undoubtedly triggered a wave of similar projects in recent years. Cities and developers began looking to terraced parks as a way to revive ghostly downtowns and bring communities together after freeways cut through them in the 1960s and 1970s. An increased focus on reconnecting neighborhoods in debates around the infrastructure bill brought highway bridge parks to the national stage.

When I-74 passed through Peoria, Illinois, in 1958, it divided the city’s downtown area from adjacent neighborhoods, including several historical and cultural attractions. Stores left, people who could migrated to the suburbs, while others got stuck in declining neighborhoods due to redlining. With 113,000 residents, Peoria is a mid-sized city, not a large urban center like Seattle, Boston, or Dallas, and it doesn’t have the political or philanthropic base of a big city. But hometown propellants including Theodore Hoerr, ASLA, of the New York-based landscape architecture and urban design firm field work, believe that a park of highway bridges could do more than weave the scars of the city. “I would say it could transform the trajectory of downtown Peoria and the city itself,” Hoerr says.

Hoerr grew up in a family nursery with a design/build company not far from Peoria and has strong ties to the place, including some projects. He was working on a master plan for the Peoria Riverside Museum and had moved home for the summer during the pandemic when he bonded with Kim Blickenstaff of KDB group. Blickenstaff was familiar with Klyde Warren Park and had researched sites around I-74. The terraced park concepts quickly came to fruition, followed by a community engagement campaign that began to develop the park’s programming and purpose.

The proposal, called Interplay Park, emphasizes intergenerational play. Several program areas, called Molecules, are designed enough to generate interest while remaining open and flexible to allow local nonprofit groups to adapt them. Hoerr says the park also has the needs of the growing older adult population in mind and sees opportunities to combine activities for seniors and young people. The proposal quickly garnered political goodwill, including interest from former US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who pledged to throw his political capital behind the project. The challenges of getting an ambitious bridge park off the ground in a struggling midsize city will require state and regional buy-in, but Hoerr says he thinks the project should be seen as more than an amenity. local. “It’s actually a park that helps shape the identity of the area – attracting families, attracting businesses and helping to support all Peorians.”

Posted in CITIES, ECONOMY, ENVIRONMENT, PARKS, LEISURE, LE DOS | Tagged downtown, highway bridge park, InterPlay Park, Jennifer Reut, Peoria, Terrain Work, Theodore Hoerr | leave a comment

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