Charting a path to equitable development

Lowline was an underground park planned for the unused Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal. It was an opportunity for much needed green space in LES, community benefits, and it would have been the first underground park using technology to bring light underground. After years of fundraising and community engagement, the Lowline faced challenges in getting off the ground.

Openbox worked with the Lowline to understand what equitable development is, where the Lowline stands, and how the Lowline might course correct to become a more community-centered development.

The Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal is located underground directly adjacent to a subway station in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City.

How we did it

  • Interviewed 17 industry experts to understand what equitable development is—including developers who had launched some of the first smart growth and equitable development projects in the US. These turned into key learnings and insight into the most current challenges and best practices.
  • Created an equitable development framework based on our learnings, which became the foundation for our strategy for the Lowline.
  • Interviewed X Lowline stakeholders including board members, architects, local Business Improvement Districts, youth program participants and local community organizations.
  • Evaluated the impact of the community engagement work of the Lowline so far by measuring the projects achievements and gaps against the equitable development framework.
  • Next steps roadmap for the Lowline to shift its development strategy towards more equitable, community-centered outcomes.
The Lowline development as experienced by all stakeholders including community-based organizations over a timeline of 10 years. Each internal and public-facing engagement was mapped against corresponding phases in the equitable development framework, to better understand what the project's achievements and gaps are thus far.