Lincoln Park: Car Companies Start Designing the Cities They Drive In

Modern architecture isn't exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you see a Lincoln automobile — the huge, lumbering car your grandfather drove to pick you up from kindergarten, with its vinyl upholstery, ashtray full of stubbed-out Pall Malls, and tape deck playing hit songs by Betty Boop or Commander Cody (whose song "Hod Rod Lincoln" wafted over the radio waves in 1955). But now Lincoln's decided to rebrand itself with The Lincoln Reimagine Project, a $1.2 million undertaking through which the company plans to fund new urban developments and "technological eco-systems."

Its latest such ecosystem is the Portola neighborhood in San Francisco, a realm of single family homes and mom-and-pop doughnut shops that eerily fits the old, boaty Lincolns of yore. It's a match made in wood-paneled, vinyl-sided, vintage 1971 heaven. But now, the car company pitches itself as a luxury brand, while the neighborhood says it's sitting on the cusp of revitalization.

So, this past summer, Lincoln signed on as a major partner in the 1 Burrows Street pocket park, a small, green, public plaza to be erected in an underused neighborhood cul-de-sac for an estimated $200,000. Conceived by architect Reaz Haque of the local organization Architecture for Humanity, with help from the Portola Neighborhood Association, the new car-sponsored development will transform an erstwhile dumping ground (literally a dumping ground; specifically, for old toilets) into a local asset. Lincoln says the pocket park helps illustrate its "holistic" approach to automobile design. And to the company's credit, reimagining the terrain of a city is a holistic form of automaking, indeed.

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