Coming soon: A deck park near you

Parks are a welcome green oasis for anyone anywhere, but they’re possibly most appreciated in concrete jungles where space and nature are at a premium.

New parks are popping up across the country on top of highways. They’re called deck parks, highway cap parks or land bridges — and they’re a huge hit.

You’ll find deck parks in Boston, Dallas, New York City and San Francisco. Parks are underway in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Denver. Other cities, such as Atlanta and the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, are considering it. (See below.)

Parks built over highways aren’t brand new. Seattle has had one over Interstate 5 since 1976 and Phoenix over I-100 since 1990. But such parks have become increasingly popular as a way to find space in teeming cities, add greenery to downtowns, encourage more outdoor activity, rejuvenate blighted areas and rejoin urban neighborhoods split by road construction decades earlier.

I’m all for more parks. Having grown up near a city park, I spent a lot of time there — as a child and as a teenager. I recently visited the new deck park in San Francisco. I’ve also been to the deck parks in Boston, Chicago and Dallas.

Parks can make a difference. Trees and plants take carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen. Studies shows that plants can help humans fight depression. A recent U.S. Department of Transportation case study found that most visitors (91 percent) to Dallas’ new deck park said it “significantly improved” their quality of life. That park also spurred economic, environmental and other benefits, including new tax revenue, a big jump in adjacent commercial rents and increased streetcar ridership in Dallas.

Here’s your guide to finding a deck park — or plans for one — near you:

5 new(ish) deck parks

San Francisco: Salesforce Park in the South of Market area is one of the latest deck parks. It opened in August 2018 as part of larger project, including a new transit center and office tower for software company Salesforce. Not long after, the 5.4-acre rooftop park closed when two cracked steel beams were found. It re-opened last summer. The narrow park includes a walking loop, a small amphitheater, a playground and a fountain. The $2.2 billion park is public, but Salesforce bought sponsorship, giving it naming rights for 25 years. It’s open through April 30 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

San Francisco
Salesforce Park in San Francisco opened in 2018. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

Dallas: I was living here in 2012, when the city opened the 5-acre, $110 million Klyde Warren Park above a freeway that separates two neighborhoods: the downtown Dallas Arts District and Uptown. People flock to the park, which offers many activities (ping-pong to yoga), a water feature, a restaurant, a dog park and free wi-fi. The foundation that runs the park plans to add 1.2 acres for a pavilion and more parking. It’s open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. (See the featured photo I took of the park at top and below.)

Dallas plans to build another deck park near the Dallas Zoo as part of a project to widen I-35E. The 5-plus-acre Southern Gateway Deck Park will reconnect and revitalize parts of the Oak Cliff neighborhood south of downtown. Park construction could begin by 2022.

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Klyde Warren Park in Dallas offers plenty for kids and adults to do. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

New York City: The High Line park built on a 1.45-mile, elevated rail line on the West Side opened in 2009. The High Line app lets visitors digitally explore the park’s features, such as overlooks, art, performances, food venues and programs like summer dancing. The narrow, serpentine park, which runs from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street, is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through March 31 (it closes later in spring, summer and fall).

New York City

The High Line deck park in New York City meanders through different neighborhoods. (Photo by Alex Simpson on Unsplash)

Boston: The Rose Kennedy Greenway opened in 2008 at a cost $40 million. The 1.5-mile park sits above the city’s Central Artery, which was moved underground during what’s called the “Big Dig.” The long and narrow park offers food trucks, planted paths, events (such as movies, music and fitness classes), a carousel, fountains, art and free wi-fi. It’s open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Chicago: While Millennium Park isn’t elevated and doesn’t cover a highway, it is on a deck built over railroad tracks. Since opening in 2004, the park has become a huge tourist attraction and a focal point of the city. Some highlights include: a 2.5-acre garden; Cloud Gate, a sculpture that resembles a giant shiny, stainless-steel bean; a 925-foot-long footbridge; two performance venues; Crown Fountain, which consists of a reflecting pool bookended by two 50-foot glass towers on which video images of residents are projected.

Chicago
Residents and visitors alike love the Cloud Gate sculpture, aka “The Bean,” in Chicago’s Millennium Park. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

5 possible parks on the horizon

Pittsburgh: The city began working on the I-579 Cap Park in June 2019 to cover part of I-579 and reconnect downtown with its historically black neighborhood called the Hill District. The 3-acre park will include a garden, a watercourse, art and an amphitheater.  Construction is expected to be completed in late 2021.

Denver: The city’s $1.3 billion highway project will tear down an elevated portion of I-70 through a low-income neighborhood in the northeast, bury the new road and build a 5-acre deck park on top. The Central 70 project may be completed around 2022.

Philadelphia: The city is going big, with plans for a 12-acre, $220-million park over I-95. The Park at Penn’s Landing withe views of the Delaware River. The park, which is scheduled to open in 2024, will include performance space, food and drink venues, a play area, a water feature and an ice-skating rink (in winter).

Atlanta: Three groups propose deck parks over parts of busy downtown highways. The Central Atlanta Progress business coalition and Chik-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy tout separate plans for a park covering the I-75 and I-85 Downtown Connector. The Buckhead Community Improvement District proposes a park over Georgia State Route 400.

St. Paul, Minn.: A nonprofit called ReConnect Rondo advocates building a “land bridge” over part of I-94. It would reconnect the city’s Rondo neighborhood, which was divided by the highway’s construction, and provide land for a park and other development.

Find your hygge in the Twin Cities

You’ve probably heard the word hygge, but aren’t really sure what it means.

The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are good places to find hygge — the Scandinavian phrase for coziness found in the ordinary tasks of daily life — on display.

Hygge became hot as all things Nordic became cool. It’s taken on a life of its own much like tiny houses, man buns and flannel shirts.

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Minneapolis’ trendy Askov Finlayson menswear store has a festive atmosphere. (Sheryl Jean)

Nordic roots run deep in Minnesota deep (Nordic Vikings may have visited the state in the 1300s). Many Minnesotans claim Scandinavian heritage. Some Twin Cities Sandinavian shops date to the 1950s. In 1999, chef Marcus Samuelsson opened upscale Swedish-inspired Aquavit  in Minneapolis, but it closed four years later. (I ate there.)

In the last decade or so, Scandinavian culture has surged — along with the popularity of Nordic mystery writers, the Finnish television crime drama Bordertown and bands like Sweden’s First Aid Kit. Danish restaurant Noma was named the world’s best for four of the last 10 years. You’ll find the Minnesota version of New Nordic cuisine, which embraces regional foods and artisanal production, in the Twin Cities.

Hygge is on display at this sampling of spots in Minneapolis and St. Paul:

Food:

Bachelor Farmer, Minneapolis’ trendy North Loop neighborhood: Chef Paul Berglund was named Best Chef Midwest by the James Beard Foundation. Its Swedish-inspired menu includes butterscotch mushroom confit and toasts of duck liver pâté and lamb liver terrine. Owners Eric and Andrew Dayton, sons of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, are in the forefront of the Twin Cities’ Nordic resurgence.

Spoon and Sable, Minneapolis’ North Loop:  The restaurant, led by chef Gavin Kaysen (a James Beard Rising Star Chef in 2008) won a coveted Best New Restaurant nominee in 2015. Order white asparagus chowder with smoked lake trout, pork schnitzel or smoked whitefish.

Uptown 43, Minneapolis’ Linden Hills neighborhood: Chef/owner Erick Harcey’s late Swedish grandfather provided the inspiration for the restaurant. Harcey puts a twist on family recipes: salmon gravlax smörgås; Pyttipanna (Swedish hash) with cottage cheese and fried eggs; and Swedish meatball sandwich with lingonberry, charred cucumbers and fried onion.

The Finnish Bistro, St. Anthony Park: This small spot has a big menu. Try the Finnish oatcakes for breakfast, reindeer sausage and potato quiche for lunch and traditional Finnish beef pasty or stuffed cabbage rolls for dinner.

Shops:

Askov Finlayson, Minneapolis’ North Loop: The trendy shop, named for two northern Minnesota towns, sells some Nordic menswear and accessories. Eric and Andrew Dayton are the owners. It sells clothing emblazoned with “North,” a label created by the brothers to highlight Minnesota’s ruggedness, hygge and coolness that’s taken off. Hip eyeglass outlet Warby Parker occupies the rear corner.

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Fjallraven opened its St. Paul, Minn., store in fall 2015. (Sheryl Jean)

Fjällräven, St. Paul, Uptown Minneapolis, Mall of America: The Swedish outerwear retailer is probably best known in the U.S. for its square backpacks, but it offers much more. Fjallraven blends function with design, bold colors and quality fabrics. The St. Paul store is the newest of three in the Twin Cities. (Photos at top and at right.)

The Foundry Home Goods, Minneapolis’ North Loop: The warm, bright shop oozes hygge. It sells Swedish soap and bath accessories, Nordic wooden products, but also products from Canada and Japan.

Ingebretsen’s Scandinavian Gifts, Minneapolis: Beyond selling Nordic items, it offers classes from cooking to traditional crafts and even making a troll mask.

Sandeen’s Scandinavian Gifts, Art & Needlecraft, St. Paul: Dating to the mid-1950s, this shop sells items such as imported crystal, trolls, ceramics, table linens, cookware, jewelry, Swedish Dala Horses and Rosemåling (traditional folk art) supplies.

Want to learn more about visiting the Twin Cities? Read this article I just wrote for The Dallas Morning News.