Members of the ULI District Council Cohort for Park Equity gather in Denver.

Five ULI District Councils across the United States have been selected to participate in a new program focused on advancing action on equity in parks and open space over a 12-month period. Through the District Council Cohort for Park Equity (CPE), local teams will engage in two-day Technical Assistance Panels that consider specific questions related to park equity and access in their communities. The program is supported by The JPB Foundation.

Parks and open spaces are essential to physical, social, environmental, and economic health. And yet, more than one in three urban dwellers does not have access to a park within a ten-minute walk of home. Even where parks are available, inequities exist. People may live near parks that are unwelcoming, are in disrepair, lack culturally relevant programming, or do not meet their needs for other reasons.

Maximizing the potential of high-quality parks to improve conditions in communities requires the expertise, creativity, and close collaboration of leaders from all sectors—public, private, non-profit, philanthropic, and community members. ULI members are essential to this effort. With the Cohort for Park Equity, ULI District Councils support local investments in high-quality parks by leveraging the knowledge, expertise, and advocacy of members.

CPE builds a national cohort of leaders working to advance innovative solutions to current inequities. Each project explores specific local questions while identifying best practices and lessons that can be applied elsewhere. ULI’s Building Healthy Places Initiative provides funding and national resources to support local efforts.

In the first phase of the program, the five teams will conduct their Technical Assistance Panels to address specific park equity questions posed by their TAP clients, typically local municipal agencies or community-based organizations. In the second phase of the program (beginning January 2023), District Councils will have an opportunity to apply for implementation funding to support the execution of recommendations identified during the TAP process.

Alongside local partners, and drawing on national expertise from across ULI, the following District Councils will design and support tailored technical assistance engagements to meet local needs.

AUSTIN: ULI is partnering with the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department and the Austin Parks Foundation to conduct a robust analysis of Austin’s Adopt-a-Park program (AAP), which is designed to enable neighborhood groups to initiate projects and activate parks in their communities. The TAP will analyze the Adopt-a-Park program with an eye toward understanding unintentional barriers to participation in the program within historically underserved communities. 

CHARLOTTE: In partnership with the City of Charlotte, ULI is analyzing trail development opportunities within the Albermarle Road Corridor, one of the most demographically diverse neighborhoods in the city, and an area that is considered very high priority for investment in new parks and open space. Albemarle has been designated a “Corridor of Opportunity” in Charlotte, meaning it will benefit from increased city planning resources over the next 3 to 15 years. The TAP will help explore a Cultural Trail concept for the Albermarle Corridor that provides green space access and a safe, multi-modal transportation route that is responsive to the diverse needs of the community. 

DALLAS-FORT WORTH: ULI is evaluating future use opportunities for a four-acre parcel of land in the Floral Farms neighborhood in southern Dallas.  The site was the former home of Shingle Mountain, a notorious illegal construction dump measuring six stories high.  In a TAP sponsored by neighborhood advocacy groups, ULI real estate and land use expert volunteers will explore public-private partnership models, funding sources, and civic or private uses compatible with redevelopment that include opportunities for a park or community gathering space. The TAP will also provide advice on governance and financing structures for the redevelopment options, including operation and maintenance, to support the future viability of the site as a place for sustained economic activity and community engagement.

NEW YORK: ULI is helping the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative formalize the NYC Greenways Coalition, a collective effort of more than 40 nonprofit, community, advocacy, and stewardship organizations, focused on the implementation and planning for the 400-mile citywide greenway network. The TAP will focus on embedding equity in the Coalition’s cross-sector partnership models to ensure that all communities benefit from greenway investment and planning resources. 

SAN ANTONIO:  ULI is evaluating opportunities to redesign and activate Rosedale Park, a 60-acre park serving San Antonio’s Westside, historically a predominantly Hispanic and low-income area of the city. The neighborhood has seen a resurgence of economic and community growth over the last several years, and a coalition of partners is working together to transform the underutilized park into a celebrated community asset.

This program builds on the deep work that ULI has undertaken to advance equitable access to parks in cities across the United States.  For more information, and to read about ULI’s latest park-focused reports, click here.