Cafe proposed for High Line

By Alec Appelbaum | November 08, 2007 10:13PM

When the High Line train trestle becomes a park coursing over the Meatpacking District and West Chelsea, the art galleries and condos along it expect more visitors. Those visitors could get their caffeine fix on the path itself, if a proposal for a cafe proceeds from the preliminary sketches shown by the park’s sponsors.

The public recently got a glimpse of the future park when the project’s lead designers showed a glass-box coffee bar where the trestle crosses Tenth Avenue at 18th Street. The cafe would have entrances at street level from what’s now a parking lot, as well as on the Line.

The portion of the park that would include a cafe; is under construction and due to open by next fall. Friends of the High Line spokeswoman Katie Lorah said the retail site would arrive a few months later.

Some observers said that the cafe’s design — a sleek rectangle that appears to float — echoes the sheen of nearby condos and would weaken the park’s open-to-all aesthetic. But Robert Hammond, a Friends of the High Line co-founder, re-assured the audience on October 23. “It’s very important that a concession be open to people of all incomes,” he said, “even if it might look really fancy.”

Some presentation attendants asked designers if they could preserve a sense of the wild along the trestle.

Field Operations and Diller, Scofidio & Renfro, the architecture firms leading the design, say they are striving to preserve trestle’s pristine ambience — it’s overgrown with flowers and weeds that have grown spontaneously since the track went idle in 1980 — while adding paths and gathering places. They say they will listen to public comment.

“There will be time for revision after feedback,” Field Operations chief James Corner said at the presentation. City planners say new drawings will be withheld until residents who saw them last month can comment and their feedback can be considered.

With or without a coffee bar, the park cannot stay completely bucolic if it is going to be the focal point of a rapidly developing neighborhood, designers and planners say.

To create paths and plazas, Corner said that “the existing landscape has to be removed.”