The folks behind the Lowline are in high spirits: a benefit at the Bowery Hotel on Monday night attracted 500 guests (including celebrity supporter Adrian Grenier) and raked in about $30,000. The money will go towards funding the next phase of technology and design research, according to Robyn Shapiro, the project’s Director of Community.
In 2012, the team behind “the world’s first underground park,” produced a report on the feasibility and cost of the undertaking from an engineering perspective. Now, Shapiro says, it’s time to update that research in light of the Essex Crossing development. The new study will closely examine the Lowline’s desired site — a historic trolley terminal below Delancey Street — to determine the proper layout of access points, and how to maximize pedestrian safety on the street.
Since a core feature of the project from its inception has been the use of innovative solar technology to conduct natural light to this subterranean space, the research will also determine where, at street level, solar receptors could be placed.
The Lowline team anticipated a budget of $50 million in 2012, and Shapiro says this estimate still holds. And after two years of pushing the project, having produced a feasibility study, a well-attended technology exhibition and a youth education program, when can we expect the project to come to fruition? “That’s the question everyone, including me, is very eager to know the answer to,” says Shapiro with good humor.
Construction depends on the city granting the Lowline visionaries access to their proposed site. And since the location is officially under the aegis of MTA, that organization will need to transfer power to the city, before the city can entrust the Lowline team (as a non-profit agency) with the space, Shapiro says.
In the meantime, a two-tiered youth program will be launched this summer to engage young designers with the assistance of The Center for Architecture and the Abrons Art Center.
The unique vision and community focus of the Lowline means the project isn’t short on supporters. All the funding so far has come from private sources, Shapiro confirms, although the team count community board members, council members and even senators among their fan base. They’re also keen to get Mayor de Blasio and the current administration on board.
“[The support is] an indication of just how solid the project is, and how much it fulfills a very real need for public space in the city,” says Shapiro. And despite the arduous process, and the estimated four-to-five years until the project’s completion, she feels confident that the innovative undertaking will be a success. “It’s definitely going to take years… But I really do believe it’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of when.”