Two urban parks—one in Brooklyn, New York, and the other in Wellston, Missouri—have been selected as winners of the 2020 ULI Urban Open Space Award. The award recognizes outstanding examples of vibrant public open spaces that have been instrumental in promoting healthy, sustainable, and equitable outcomes in communities.
Domino Park is part of the critical transformation of the former Domino Sugar Factory site into a vibrant mixed-use space within an area that previously had one of the lowest ratios of open space to people in the city. Inspired by community input and the site’s rich history, the five-acre (2 ha) park reconnects the Williamsburg neighborhood to the East River for the first time in 160 years.
Domino Park showcases the legacy of an iconic industrial waterfront site through an “Artifact Walk,” which integrates over 30 large-scale salvaged relics into an interpretive walk and engaging journey, including 21 original columns from the Raw Sugar Warehouse, gantry cranes, screw and bucket conveyors, and syrup tanks. The park is raised above Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood elevations, with many native plant species that reduce stormwater runoff and function as an absorbent sponge and first line of defense against sea-level rise.
The park is one of the first projects to be certified under the Waterfront Edge Design Guidelines (WEDG), an incentive-based ratings system to make waterfronts more resilient, environmentally healthy, accessible, and equitable for all. Domino Park offers a wide range of active and passive uses and has been embraced by the diverse community it serves, with nearly 3.5 million visitors since opening in June 2018.
Trojan Park is a one-acre (0.4 ha) community park in Wellston, Missouri, that gets an estimated 20,000 visitors per year. It is a key destination as part of the St. Vincent Greenway, which stretches across four towns in the St. Louis region, connecting major parks, schools and universities, public transit, job centers, and neighborhoods.
Built as part of the National Recreation and Park Association’s (NRPA) “Parks Build Communities” initiative, it is a partnership project between Great Rivers Greenway (regional public agency connecting three counties with greenway trails), the city of Wellston, St. Louis County Parks, NRPA, and more than 30 partners who contributed funding or in-kind services or materials to the park. The city, the county, and NRPA continue to collaborate with vendors and volunteers for operations and maintenance.
The park, designed and named by neighbors to honor the former high school mascot, is packed with amenities they chose, from a splashpad and playgrounds to a full basketball court. It is a go-to spot for public and private gatherings. Beyond basic functions, it also features Americans with Disabilities Act–accessible exercise equipment, musical instruments, and rain gardens full of native plants.
“Equitably accessible quality open spaces are increasingly understood as vital to the physical, social, and economic health of urban neighborhoods,” says Antonio Fiol-Silva, jury chairman and founding principal of SITIO architecture + urbanism in Philadelphia. “In their own particular contexts, Domino and Trojan parks are two brilliant examples of the profoundly positive impact that such spaces can have in the lives of their communities. That both civic spaces are the product of private-sector initiatives makes them even more remarkable.”
The winners were selected from a collection of entries representing urban areas from across the United States and Canada. Projects were eligible for the award if they were predominantly outdoors and had been open to the public for at least one year. The jury selected the finalists based on criteria ranging from accomplishment of the team’s vision and goals, to sustainability and resilience, to community engagement and economic impact, among others.
In addition to Fiol-Silva, the jury chairman, the other 2020 awards jury members include Toni Alexander, president and creative director, InterCommunications Inc., Newport Beach, California; Darla Callaway, principal, Design Workshop, Aspen, Colorado; Mehul J. Patel, chief operating officer, Midtown Equities, New York City; former ULI chief executive officer Patrick Phillips, Washington, D.C.; Terry Rynard, director, Kansas City Parks and Recreation, Kansas City, Missouri; Dorine Holsey Streeter, executive vice president, real estate investment management, James Campbell Company LLC, San Francisco; and Rives Taylor, principal, codirector of design resilience, Gensler, Houston.
The Institute’s Urban Open Space Awards Competition is a key element of 10 Minute Walk, a joint effort by ULI, the Trust for Public Land, and the NRPA that is working to create a world in which, by 2050, all people live within a 10-minute walk of a park or green space. In keeping with the spirit of the campaign, the Urban Open Space Award recognizes open spaces—including parks, plazas, squares, memorials, linear parks and trails, or other nontraditional park and open-space formats—that have been instrumental in promoting healthy, sustainable, and equitable outcomes in communities.