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Lowline Lab to Close Next Month as Plan for Underground Park Continues

By Allegra Hobbs | January 27, 2017 4:21pm | Updated on January 30, 2017 8:48am
 A rendering of the proposed Lowline subterranean park on the Lower East Side.
A rendering of the proposed Lowline subterranean park on the Lower East Side.
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Raad Studio c/o Lowline

LOWER EAST SIDE — The Lowline Lab, an interactive exhibition showcasing the technology of the underground park soon to blossom below Delancey Street, will shutter within the next month.

The lab was launched in October 2015 as a sneak preview of the Lowline project — a sprawling underground green space slated to take over an abandoned trolley terminal.

The lab was always a temporary fixture at 140 Essex St., founder Dan Barasch said, since it currently occupies a future site of the sprawling Essex Crossing project. Its last day will be Feb. 26.

"The time has come," said Barasch. "We have to give the building back. We would prefer to keep the lab open longer, but we can’t."

The lab was only supposed to stay open for five months when it first launched in Oct. 2015 but was allowed by developers to stay longer, said Barasch. 

During its extended tenure, the lab served as a cultural center and community space, hosting youth programs for local high schoolers interested in learning more about the science behind the park plan.

But while the Lowline team is sad to see it go, the lab was just one step in the long journey towards creating a subterranean park with solar technology inside an abandoned trolley terminal, said Barasch.

The city in July of last year granted its tentative approval of that plan. The green light generated some local controversy, as community members accused the city Economic Development Corporation of not allowing enough time for other entrepreneurial pitches to transform the derelict underground site to roll in. 

But the go-ahead is only conditional at this point, and kicked off a year-long process to lock in the project including an extensive community engagement process, fundraising, and the production of a design with the help of an architect. 

Community engagement sessions, workshops, and town halls will continue at locations throughout the neighborhood after the lab's closure, said Barasch. 

"In many ways the closing of the lab has really sort of opened up a new chapter," he said, noting his team is beginning to create a formal, schematic design for the site from community-generated design ideas. 

"Our work is really only going to accelerate from here."

In the meantime, the lab is hosting a few final bashes in the month leading up to the closure. Kids of all ages will be treated to a science and sustainability fair with hands-on workshops on Feb. 11.

On Feb. 12, the lab will partner with the Essex Street Market to host 10 local vendors in the space for an indoor winter food fair.