By Stu Robarts
A project in Liverpool, UK, is aiming to turn a flyover that is due to be demolished into a community park and events space
Many projects in cities across the world have reclaimed disused areas to transform them into community spaces. New York’s High Line and Sydney’s Goods Line are two such examples. Now, a project in Liverpool, UK, hopes to transform a flyover into a urban park and alternative events space.
Friends of the Flyover is the brainchild of Kate Stewart and Steve Threlfall (whose Made Here business provides people from Liverpool with a means of buying work by local designers, artists and makers), as well as education and social housing architect Mark Bennett. Their interest in community can be also seen in their involvement with the city’s Churchill Way flyover. Stewart explains that plans laid out by the local council and economic development body to improve the surrounding area would effectively starve the flyover of traffic and make it redundant.
With the costs for demolishing the structure estimated at £3-4 million (US$5.1-6.8 million), the friends began looking at alternative approaches. “At the moment, the flyover cuts off the communities in north Liverpool and there is also a historic community that was fragmented when Gerard Gardens was demolished,” Stewart tells Gizmag. “We felt that turning the flyover into an elevated urban park would enable residents both in the city center and in the north to engage with a basically forgotten area of the city.”
Designs were produced for the, “creation of a pedestrian and cycle-friendly promenade in the sky.” The designs include cafes, raised beds for planting, allotments tended by the local community, independent retail kiosks and market stalls. Additional power infrastructure and Wi-Fi access would be added and regular events, such as gigs and farmers’ markets, would be held.
The plans also include the development of an outreach and education program with the nearby National Museums Liverpool and the creation of a new trust or community interest company to manage and maintain the redeveloped structure.
Stewart explains that when the plans were released earlier this year, there was a huge positive response from both the local community and from further afield. “We feel a great sense of responsibility to deliver the project now for ‘the crowd,’ not just for ourselves,” she says.
Following the release of the designs and their good reception, a crowd-funding campaign was launched to raise money for a feasibility study. The requisite funds were successfully raised and the money is being used for identifying and exploring business models, producing detailed plans and designs, working through legalities, developing a vision and program of events and engaging local residents.
This weekend sees the group’s first big public invitation event, aimed primarily at “reclaiming” the space. The flyover will be closed to traffic, as it is eventually planned to be for good, and it will play host to music, food, art, theater and workshops. The initial designs for the redeveloped flyover will be on display as part of the public consultation for feedback on the plans.
Also at the event, a scheme allowing people to become a supporter of the project, or a “Friend of the Flyover,” will be launched. The scheme will allow people to sign up at various levels for different benefits, such as by donating for future work on the project or simply staying up-to-date with it.
“The next two months will be crazy busy for us,” says Stewart. “We will be visiting more community groups and involving them with the design briefing process and doing a lot of detailed design work.”
In addition to that, the team will be working on structural assessments and creating a business plan to prove the sustainability of the project in the long-term. The group’s aim is to agree on a legal structure and the right ownership or leasing mechanism in order to move forward. The next major milestones will see work begin, with improvements carried out to the pedestrian walkways and to the “landing stage” areas around the structure.
This publication first appeared on the Gizmag website.