Two new ULI reports provide possibilities for expanding and enhancing parks through collaborative partnerships and the transformation of spaces for cars into places for people.
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of community outdoor spaces. Parks, trails, streets closed to automobiles, and public plazas have been some of the only places that have allowed people to maintain physical distance while still being able to exercise, relax, play, gather in small groups, or reach key destinations—crucial activities for lowering stress levels, reducing symptoms of depression, and maintaining physical health.
Pavement to Parks: Transforming Spaces for Cars into Places for People presents stories from across the United States and around the globe of cities and organizations that have worked to transform or enhance spaces formerly dedicated to cars—parking lots, parking garages, travel lands, and highway underpasses—into parks and open spaces that support recreation, community engagement, social equity, sustainability and resilience, and neighborhood connectivity and revitalization. Pavement-to-parks conversions provide the opportunity to enhance community connection, promote environmental sustainability, and improve park access for communities that have lacked it. The report challenges readers to think creatively and strategically about underused spaces, especially in this current moment, and whether they could be prime places for new parks. Examples include Chicano Park in San Diego, Erie Street Plaza in Milwaukee, and the Depave program in Portland, Oregon.
The second report, Successful Partnerships for Parks: Collaborative Approaches to Advance Equitable Access to Open Space, shares lessons and considerations for real estate and other sectors—including public, nonprofit, and philanthropic organizations—on how to jointly create and sustain parks. Traditionally, parks departments have built, operated, and maintained parks for the long term, but today, public investment in parks is stagnant or declining. Cross-sector partnerships can help bridge the gap between community needs and available public resources for parks. All sectors have something to offer, and increasingly, real estate leaders can play a critical role by creating or operating parks alongside development projects or by contributing funding for nearby parks. Such multisector partnerships can enhance real estate value and, with intentional efforts, also support community health and well-being. Examples featured include 2020 ULI Urban Open Space Award finalist Domino Park in Brooklyn, New York; 2018 ULI Jack Kemp Excellence in Affordable and Workforce Housing Award winner Avenue Place in Houston; and Drexel Park in Philadelphia.
“Research has shown that access to parks improves social and health equity outcomes around the globe. These reports demonstrate the importance of creative partnerships and community collaboration in creating parks and public spaces that are unique and respond to community-defined needs,” says ULI Chief Executive Officer W. Edward Walter. “These reports build on ULI’s work helping to support vibrant public places in cities across the world and hopefully they will spur conversations about how to fund and reimagine the future of open spaces.”
The pandemic has highlighted the longstanding reality that disparities in park and trail access and quality reflect land use patterns of segregation based on race and other demographic factors. ULI’s new reports provide examples and best practices for improving equitable access to high-quality parks, a key tenet of 10 Minute Walk, a movement led by the Trust for Public Land in partnership with ULI and the National Recreation and Park Association. 10 Minute Walk is working to create a world in which, by 2050, all people live within a 10-minute walk of a park or green space. For more information, visit: https://americas.uli.org/research/centers-initiatives/10-minute-walk-campaign/.