When Hayward, California, began planning a mile-long linear park in August of 2020, the Bay Area city faced a number of daunting problems. The site was not promising — a thin, trash-strewn pathway adjacent to a main road, Mission Boulevard, with sparse plantings and minimal lighting. And the budget was a miniscule $2 million, or about $7.50 per square foot. Park developments of this scale typically run north of $50 or $60 a square foot.

To make an even more stark comparison: One mile of another celebrated linear park, New York City’s High Line, cost more than $150 million to construct more than a decade ago.

Michelle Koo, the city’s landscape architect, felt the task was impossible. “How do you make a park with such a low budget that covers such a long expanse?” she says. “The budget didn’t support it and I was doubtful we could do it.”

Typically, value engineering of parks translates into “smaller plants, cheaper materials and cheaper thinking,” says Tyler Jones-Powell, a senior associate at San Francisco-based Surfacedesign, the firm leading the project’s planning. In this case, the budget was so low, there wasn’t any lower to go. Read more.