In many American cities (not just in the U.S.), highway infrastructure has changed the urban landscape and created new challenges for planners.
Mexico City has developed a unique strategy for dealing with one of these challenges; namely, the empty space under highway overpasses. These areas, which were previously occupied by vagrants and unlicensed parking lots, have been transformed into usable public space under a new program known as Bajo Puentes, or “Under Bridges.” The city was also able to increase its available retail space for no cost by granting concessions to developers for use of the space.
Since enacting the Under Bridges program, the first of its kind, these areas have undergone lighting and streetscape improvements, and cafes and other shops have been built. Thirty percent of the space is designated as commercial and leased out at below-market rates, which enables operators of small impromptu eateries to move into a permanent [more hygienic] location. This is just one of the varied uses that are part of the project. Read more about this innovative reuse of space in this article from the Washington Post.