Private vs Public Money for Parks

New York Times recently published When Parks Must Rely on Private Money by DIANE CARDWELL concerning the struggles of cities to fund the construction and maintenance of parks throughout the USA. Many parks are funded through selling of land or revenues generated by carparks or taxes from new nearby developments and others are funded by residents and companies donating funds in return for naming rights or plaques. Cardwell cites examples of parks that have been constructed with the use some private funding including Millennium Park in Chicago and the Highline and with the tradeoff causing issues in some cities.

The article stimulated a few ideas I have had during my career. I find that funding of new or redevelopment of parks is a often a fine line between private and public funding, which often blurs the line between public and private space. Private funding often causing issues with residents because of naming or commercial activities in the new park that create a private area.

An ever-growing trend for cities around the world is to justify the cost of construction and maintenance of parks through inclusion of private funding or commercial activities such as paid parking garages, retail shops, restaurants, or areas that are commercialised for entertainment(concerts, festivals, etc). How to strike a balance between private and public funding is very complicated process for each city and requires research and consultation.

Many cities find it hard to redevelop parks with the use of public money as it is often controversial as parks are sometimes seen by residents as non-essential. Residents see hospitals, schools, and police as essential services within the community whereas parks are seen as non-essential and that public monies would be better spent on other services. To avoid this cities seek private funding in return for naming rights or a commercial development on or near the  park. Now the question is how far to go with private funding and how much is the park compromised by accepting the funding in return for naming right or commercial development?

This issue of public and private funding will become more and more prevalent around the world as developers of retail and residential developments blur the line between public and private space by creating spaces in developments that are town squares and parks that can be accessed by the public. This blurring will cause some confusion with city residents as to what is public space and what is private. It also raises the question – Are developers going to develop parks and maintain them or will it always remain the domain of the local government?

Private development of public parks as apart of residential developments or commercial developments, which are then handed to government after certain period is already occurring in some parts of the world. Will this become a growing trend across cities for small and large parks? Or will it remain only in residential developments?

By Damian Holmes

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New York luring developers with landscape

New York is creating new parks in Queens at Hunter Point South to lure developers and then tenants to the area. Weiss/Manfredi are the landscape architects for the project and the New York Times recently quoted Michael Manfredi as saying

“The city needed to signal to a fairly skittish development community that it’s serious about this project,” a partner in the New York firm Weiss/Manfredi, the landscape architects on the project along with Thomas Balsley Associates. “Unlike most projects, where open space follows housing and lots of charged debate, here the open space comes first.”

Read the rest of the article in the New York Times

[SOURCE: New York Times - Landscaping as a Seductive First Step]

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Walter Hood in the New York Times

New York Times feature with Walter Hood about Crown Memorial State Beach

Mr. Hood, whose landscape architecture firm designed the grounds of the de Young Museum in San Francisco, lives in Oakland, and he spends a lot of time traveling. In August, he accepted a Cooper Hewitt National Design Award at the White House. (His words have been edited and condensed.)

read more at the SOURCE: New York Times – A beach with a different view

Could Detroit become the City of Urban Agriculture?

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The idea of returning Detroit to farm land is an interesting idea that was recently covered in New Geography(DETROIT: URBAN LABORATORY AND THE NEW AMERICAN FRONTIER, Nov. 4) and New York Times(Plowing Detroit Into Farmland blog post Nov. 9 based on New Geography article).

The New Geography article reviews the size and scale of Detroit in comparison to other cities and the extent of urban decay since the 1950′s and that Detroit could become farmland.

In my opinion, Detroit could become a city of urban agriculture; it has the land, water & infrastructure(roads, rail) and lots of deserted industrial space that could be converted to markets and storage/logistics.  However it would require a either a grass roots movement which gets financial backing (after initial results) from investors or a federal incentive as the city of Detroit is shrinking and resources are already stretched.

Urban agriculture could supply the people of Detroit and other cities in region with food. Large areas of housing could be converted to open fields where the blocks are large or rows of green houses where the blocks are narrow. The agricultural areas could also grow crops for ethanol(although resource intensive) to supply raw materials for fuel(refined in Detroit) for the farm machinery and cars.

Urban agriculture combined with alternative energy such as wind and solar could convert Detroit from a city to a urban core with villages (see New Geography for diagram). The city could become self-sufficient and a possible testing ground for urban design that could be used for other North Americans cities going through the same changes in size and urban form.

New Orleans is currently a hot bed for Urban Design experiments for the South, which came about from a natural disaster maybe Detroit can come back as the hot bed of Urban Design for Northern climates.

Detroit has the opportunity and basic resources but does it have the will to change?

Read more information used as background for this post at [New Geography] & [New York Times]

By Damian Holmes

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