Rail-to-park transformations in 21st century modern cities: Green gentrification on track

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With urban greening projects increasingly sparking conflicts with environmental and social activists, rail-to-park transformations reveal how ideas of modernity in urban planning enable the perfect “green growth machine.” Here, trains and connectivity—powerful symbols of Modernity in the 19th and 20th centuries—are interlaced with greening and sustainability, motives of the current progress paradigm, and planning orthodoxy. Through a political economy and political ecology lens, we analyze the material and symbolic assembly of two recent railway transformations—Valencia Parc Central and the Atlanta Beltline—and their associated parks. We examine the actual process under which parks are created (parks as a tangible, material object, as infrastructure) and how such a process is entangled in social, political, and economic dynamics that also shape adjacent gentrification. We argue that gentrification is implicit, yet necessary, in the process of park making. Such a process and its embedded politics shape the role that parks have in their neighborhoods and their cities, and what it is expected from them socially, politically, and financially. The conflicts arising from the park making illustrate the two speeds working within 21st century cities: the fast, modern, outward-looking competitive model and the inward-looking, caring more for local revitalization and residents’ welfare.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)810-834
JournalEnvironment and Planning E: Nature and Space
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022

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