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10 ideas Boston should steal from other cities

New York’s High Line.
New York’s High Line.(Demetrius Freeman/The New York Times)

HIGH LINE, NEW YORK CITY

Every city everywhere wants a High Line. Take three planes, a bus, and a trek on a yak to a small Tibetan village and the locals will gesture at some old railway and mutter “High Line.” The New York City public space, built atop an unused railway, is the model for how cities can turn their eyesores into gems.

THREE RIVERS HERITAGE TRAIL, PITTSBURGH

(Jeff Swensen/New York Times/2008)

Boston’s pitched battle between bicyclists and car commuters would make good fodder for a sci-fi flick in which citizens segregate themselves by their transit choices — Waterworld in the street. But in Pittsburgh, 24 miles of trails connect city neighborhoods, business districts, attractions, and more.

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MILLENNIUM PARK, CHICAGO

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Imagine the Lawn on D if it were as big and bold and central as Boston Common, drawing in thousands a day instead of a few hundred. Art exhibitions, lush gardens, beautiful views of the city, and a schedule packed with fun events have made the park, in a relatively short time, one of Chicago’s must-see attractions. If only Boston had some industrial wastelands on which to build . . . oh, wait.

VILLAGE BUILDING CONVERGENCE, PORTLAND, OREGON

For 10 days in May, people all over Portland gather to make their already beautiful city just a little more livable. Hosted by Portland’s City Repair Project, which aims to develop thriving, inclusive public spaces, the annual event includes workshops, public art, music, and more — all in service of shared spaces.

PARK AND SLIDE, BRISTOL, ENGLAND

(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Luke Jerram had a dream: hundreds of people shooting down a giant water slide on a city street. Bristol helped make it happen. Part of the city’s Make Sunday Special program, which closes off streets every Sunday over the summer, the 295-foot slide drew nearly 100,000 requests for tickets. Only 360 lucky souls were chosen; Jerram went first.

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ALLEY NETWORK PROJECT, SEATTLE

An in-depth study of Seattle’s downtown unearthed some buried treasure: The maze of narrow alleys around Pioneer Square, it turned out, could be vibrant pedestrian thoroughfares. A partnership of businesses, volunteers and locals made it so, turning the largely unused space into places for art, food, and fun.

MOJO ROBOT, LOS ANGELES

OK, it’s basically just a lamp. But the giant robotic arm that lives outside a San Pedro apartment building, blasting its beam of light on passersby, is the kind of weird, cool, why-not flight of fancy that makes a mundane day memorable.

20FT WIDE, AUSTIN

(Art Alliance Austin)

Re-purposing an unremarkable alley in downtown Austin, artists Dan Cheetham and Michelle Tarsney challenged passersby to think differently about public space. The 2013 one-off was in some ways a proof of concept — in fairly short order, the artists “activated” the forgotten corridor. All they left behind was evidence that even utilitarian urban leftovers can be a blast when you give people permission to party.

SILO CITY, BUFFALO

(Tony Cenicola/ New York Times)

The decaying grain elevators along the Buffalo River could have been a grim reminder of the city’s industrial past. Instead, they’re one of Buffalo’s most exciting event spaces. History tours explore what the area once was, but art installations, readings, flea markets, concerts, theater performances, and more hosted on the eerie grounds are evidence of what the city is today.

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THE ALLEY PROJECT, DETROIT

A studio and gallery for street art in a city where canvas is everywhere, TAP gives young people in vibrant but troubled southwest Detroit a (legal) outlet for creative expression. Through workshops and community events, the program paints over gang graffiti with something beautiful.


Nestor Ramos is a Globe staff writer. E-mail him at nestor.ramos@globe.com and follow him on Twitter @nestoraramos.