The High Line park in New York ... "It is about a new way of seeing the city."
Cities should retain and transform their old industrial eyesores into modern open space, the man who helped create Manhattan's famous West Side High Line urban park says.
Robert Hammond, who is in Melbourne this week for the "Thriving Neighbourhoods" conference, said transforming the elevated freight line into an urban park stretching almost two kilometres and three hectares just took a little community will – and some generous donations.
"I think the most important thing we did was start it and then other people came along to get it done," he said.
Mr Hammond said cities had to be smarter about creating open space.
"There is no more farm space in cities to build parks, so we have got to look at industrial spaces and a lot of time what happens is they erase the history of the structure rather than looking at the historical structure and trying to incorporate that into the final design," he said.
He said the transformation of derelict factories and industrial sites into apartments was common, but the benefits were not shared by all.
"What happens is this new architecture is reserved for wealthy people that can afford these apartments," he said.
"So the idea is to bring it into public open space that everyone can enjoy."
When it is completed the High Line will have cost about $250 million, with the city contributing $120 million and donations the rest.
Mr Hammond's work on the High Line started 14 years ago and continues.
"Mayor [Rudolph] Giuliani wanted to tear it down ... so we started this group to not only save it but turn into a public park," he said.
Mr Hammond said you did not need to be an expert to champion a cause such as the High Line; instead the prerequisites were passion and will.
Initially estimated to have 300,000 visitors a year, the High Line now attracts more than 4.5 million visitors annually.
"Most parks are an escape from the city, they are meant to be like you are in the countryside, where the High Line is all about being part of the city, you are not escaping. You have views of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, it is about bringing green but it is also about a new way of seeing the city," he said.
"We thought people would use it to get from A to B but what most people are doing is coming just for the High Line itself, just to experience it."
Melbourne city councillor Aaron Wood said they had identified open space shortages in the north and west of the city and were looking at opportunities for new parks.
"It is essentially anything we can get our hands on, it is a bit opportunistic," he said.
The council has already moved to create new or expanded areas of open space, including the Errol Street Reserve expansion that reduced traffic lanes or another example nearby that took car parking spaces to create a small grassed area.
He said developers behind big new apartment projects would also be asked to set aside land for open space or make a contribution to council to buy new land for open space.
The council has also developed a strategy to guide open space planning for the next 15 years.
The state government's new Plan Melbourne calls for new neighbourhood parks and open space and increased vegetation coverage for the city.
It said there was "scope to explore more innovative ways of increasing local open space at the neighbourhood level".