Revitalizing Cities with Innovative Parks

June 25, 2010 17 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

14 ways to build out innovative parks in crowded cities by Peter Harnik, director, Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land and author of "Urban Green: Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities.

1. Buy the land.

Harnik pointed to Boston’s Public Square and the Santa Fe Railway Park as examples of good investments made by local governments.

Santa Fe's Railway Park & Plaza

2. Use urban redevelopment.

Portland’s Pearl District was cited as an example.

Portland's Pearl District

3. Turn part-time schoolyards into full-time parks.

“Ideally, these facilities should be in use 16 hours per day.”

This wasted space at the LaVilla School of Arts could potentially serve as public greenspace in the redevelopment of LaVilla.

4. Turn landfills into parks.

Boston’s Millennium Park offers 100-acres of green space on top of a landfill. “While you can’t add trees or put up structures, these are important green spaces.”

5. Make double-use of stormwater retention ponds.

Harnik cited High Point in Seattle (see an ASLA case study on this project).

The conversion of an existing retention pond into Brooklyn Central Park would be an example of taking advantage of stormwater retention ponds for recreational space.

6. Turn cemetaries into parks.

Hartford’s cemetary now features jazz concerts. In D.C., a cemetery doubles as a dog park. “Owners can come for free, but dogs are charged a fee, which is used to finance upkeep of the cemetary.”

At one point in the past, Jacksonville's Evergreen Cemetary had plans to become an arboretum.

7. Invest in rooftop parks.

New York’s Riverbank State Park is, in effect, a massive rooftop park built on top of water treatment infrastructure.

Nashville's Courthouse Square is an example of a rooftop park.

The Nashville Courthouse Public Square was completed in 2006.  It replaced a surface parking lot that stood in front of the courthouse for the past 30 years.  In 2007, the 7.5-acre project was honored with the Green Roof Award of Excellence from the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities organization.

8. Deck reservoirs with parkland.

The E.P.A. has ruled that reservoirs must be covered. Instead of using a tarp, some cities are covering reservoirs with pavement and then grass, turning them into parks. Seattle’s reservoir park is an example.

The conversion of JEA's reservoirs near Main & 1st Streets into parkland would serve as a huge boost to the revitalization efforts of Springfield and downtown Jacksonville.

9. Expand community gardens.

“While these are not parks, they have many park-like features.”

The Bridge Community Garden in Jacksonville's Springfield Historic District.

10. Re-use rail trails.

In D.C., the Capitol Crescent Trail, a beautiful park, re-used an abandoned corridor. “The great benefit was that it was already leveled.” Harnik also pointed to Minneapolis’ mid-town greenway and the High Line Park in New York City.

New York City's High Line Park.

11. Benefit from boulevards.

Commonwealth avenue in Boston and Pennsylvania avenue in Washington, D.C. are two examples of green medians.

Ortega's Yerkes Park is an example of a green space that is essentially a median at the intersection of three streets.

12. Close park roads to cars (temporarily or permanently).

Harnik also said parks should consider removing roads all together.

The removal of Lemon Street lead to the creation of this pedestrian promenade in Lakeland, FL's Lake Mirror Park.

13. Use the space over roads.

Seattle’s Freeway Park and the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston were cited as two examples. “The land is free, but the superstructure is expensive.”

Boston's Rose Kennedy Greenway (The Big Dig)

14. Remove excessive parking, expanding park space.

“Parking within parks takes up a huge amount of space.”

NFL stadiums are usually surrounded by acres of surface parking. However, greenspace dominates Chicago's Soldier Field's surroundings.