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Lowline Launches $200,000 Kickstarter For Tech Lab in Former Essex Market Building

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Rendering of Lowline lab; courtesy RAAD Studio.
Rendering of Lowline Lab; courtesy RAAD Studio.

The Lowline today launched a Kickstarter campaign in support of a full-scale laboratory that will be set up in a former building of the Essex Street Market this coming fall. They’re aiming to raise $200,000 in the next 30 days.

The team behind the proposal to turn a 107-year-old abandoned trolley station into an underground park is hoping that the lab will go a long way towards finally persuading the Metropolitan Transit Authority to turn over the 60,000 sq. ft. space below Delancey Street. In 2012, the Lowline ran an extremely successful Kickstarter, raising more than $150,000 for a smaller demo project.

The organization has already rented out the vacant Essex Market building between Rivington and Stanton streets. The 1940 warehouse will soon be demolished for Essex Crossing, the big development project, so this will very likely your last opportunity to go inside. The idea is to fully test solar channeling technology necessary to make the park a reality.  From the Kickstarter pitch, here’s what the lab seeks to accomplish:

In order for the City to officially approve the project, we still have some big questions to answer. Will the solar tech work? Will plants really grow? Will it be a popular public space? To answer these questions, we’re planning a long-term testing exhibition called the Lowline Lab, and we need $200,000 to build it… Following the last few years of research, we want to see with our own eyes how our technology functions over time. We’ll test how effectively we can re-direct sunlight remotely, by installing three solar collection systems on the roof of an abandoned former warehouse space, and distributing that light into the otherwise dark space… We will test our research on the species of plants our team has determined will thrive best in the lighting conditions of the Lowline… We’ll measure human happiness factors associated with our “park,” across different seasons. The Lab will be open in New York City from September- February, allowing us to see how the space is perceived and used in both the fall, when the weather outside can be variable, and the winter, when the weather outside is generally cold and often nasty. We plan to keep the space open and free to all on weekends, and we intend to survey happiness levels in both quantitative and qualitative ways, before and after visiting a safe, magical, beautiful indoor “park.”

Recently, we spoke with Lowline co-founder Dan Barasch, who first introduced the attention-grabbing proposal with James Ramsey five years ago. “We feel the lab will push our research forward,” he said. “It will also give the Lower East Side community a longer taste of what the Lowline will be like and it will give public officials a new perspective on both the technology and demonstrate that the (underground park) will be an inviting place.”

Over the years, the Lowline team has attracted the support of local elected officials, a wide range of community organizations and high profile figures in the design, political and entertainment fields. Recently, two new board members  joined the organization. They are Paul Hoffman, head of Liberty Science Center, and Signe Nielsen of Mathews Nilesen, the well-regarded landscape architecture firm.

Barasch said the lab’s setting, inside the former market building, is partly an homage to an historic place. The team hopes to partner with the vendors at the Essex Street Market for possible tours of the neighboring facility while the lab is operational. The lab, he said, will be a much more elaborate version of the demonstration three years ago. Some plants will rise all the way to the ceiling. “It will be a wild environment with, perhaps, some edible plants,” Barasch said, “and visitors might actually be able to walk through the (foliage), as if they were being transported to a different place.” There are also plans to expand the Young Designers Program, a partnership with local schools and non-profit organizations.

If you would like to read more about the Lowline Lab, head on over to their Kickstarter page.

Rendering of Lowline Lab; courtesy RAAD Studio.
Rendering of Lowline lab; courtesy RAAD Studio.



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  1. Shouldn’t they be testing how easy it will be for crime and other illegal activities to take place in an enclosed space? I can’t imagine that the neighborhood doesn’t need a bus depot more than this school project, but I bet kickstarter % really likes them.

  2. This is a no-brainer. Great for the neighborhood, makes use of unused space. Only question: why is it taking so long to make this thing a reality?

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