Solving Cities

7 bold urban projects to watch in 2012

7 bold urban projects to watch in 2012

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Cities struggled financially in 2011, but that doesn't mean big urban projects aren't on the way. Here are seven to keep your eye on in 2012.

2011 wasn't a good year for cities financially, but that doesn't mean cities across the country aren't doing big things.

Cities are working hard on plans for bold projects that will come to light this year. Will Doig, at Salon, takes us through a list (in no particular order) of seven bold urban projects to watch for in 2012:

1. Chicago's Millennium Reserve -- The city will begin the first phase of its massive open space initiative in 2012. The project will transform 140,000 acres of postindustrial land into wildlife corridors, parks, trails, and gardens. "Calling it ambitious would be like calling the Sears Tower tall," Doig said.

2. Manhattan bikeshare -- This summer, New York will get its first bikeshare system. And while other U.S. cities have established successful bikeshare systems, New York's will be the largest of them all. 10,000 bikes at 600 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and that's just phase one.

3. Los Angeles River -- Plans are underway to revitalize the Los Angeles River and its waterfront. The city will remove a concrete encasement put in place 70 years ago to prevent flooding. Unfortunately it also prevented access to the waterway. But they're not just opening the river up, the city wants to make it a destination with bike paths, walkways, and restaurants.

4. Seattle's waterfront -- Alaskan Way Viaduct, an elevated highway, is an eyesore that runs next to Seattle's stunning waterfront. Now the city is tearing down the highway to open up 22 acres of waterfront. That means more development, more tourism, and more money for the city -- not to mention a beautiful view of the Olympic Mountains (when the skies aren't gray, of course).

5. Boston Public Market -- There are plenty of Boston Markets throughout the U.S. Now the city is looking to build a legitimate Boston (Public) Market. Organizers are working hard to gather the necessary funds to have this 26,000-square-foot farmers market open later this year. "With the tourist-friendly Haymarket nearby, Boston Public Market hopes to become the epicenter of a larger 'market district' that might grow up around it," Doig said.

6. Atlanta's BeltLine -- It's been called the most ambitious smart growth project in the U.S. The BeltLine, "a 22-mile 'emerald necklace' of parks, transit and new neighborhoods will encircle the city," will see its first section open in 2012.

7. California's high-speed rail -- Despite a long list of setbacks, Doig is holding out hope for a bullet train to connect California's cities. This year is an important turning point for the train: "2012 will be do-or-die for the train — supporters want to break ground by the end of the year, and critics want it dead by then."

Look for updates on these projects throughout the year, because as these projects go, so go other innovative urban projects through the country.

Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below.

"The bold urban future starts now" [Salon]

Photo: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton/Flickr

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure