Fifteen examples of how parks and green spaces emerged from parking lots, garages, and underpasses.
Afew years ago, in his book â€śParking and the City,â€ť Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning at UCLAâ€™s Luskin School of Public Affairs, estimated that there were eight parking spaces for every vehicle that was on the road in the U.S.
Other research also shows that one in three Americans doesnâ€™t have a park within a 10-minute walk from his or her home.
With the number of automobile registrations down, and with ride-sharing continuing to gain customersâ€”Uber fulfills more than 40 million rides per month in the U.S.; Lyftâ€™s domestic ridership rose from 3.5 million in the first quarter of 2016 to 21.2 million in the first quarter of 2020â€”American cities â€śare rethinking the primacy of the car and are created parks on land once dedicated to the automobile, including former parking lots and roadways, parking garages, and spaces underneath highway overpasses.â€ť
Thatâ€™s from â€śPavements to Parks,â€ť a new report published by the Urban Land Instituteâ€™s Building Healthy Places Initiative. The report provides conversion case studies on 15 projects and four municipal programs. ULI collaborated with 10 Minute Walk, a movement dedicated to improving access to safe, high-quality parks and green spaces in the U.S. That organizationâ€™s goal is to create a world in which, by 2050, all people live within a short walk of a park or green space.
CREATING A POSITIVE ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH IMPACT
Transforming space designed for vehicles to public-use space has had its successes. For example, over 24,000 miles of railroad tracks have been converted to walking trails. The ULI report states that trail advocates announced in the spring of 2019 an initiative to create a coast-to-coast recreational trail, which would connect more than 125 existing trails nationwide.
The coronavirus outbreak has contributed to this pavement-to-parks trend, states ULI, by underscoring the importance of abundant and safe parks. â€śTo provide space for physically distanced recreation, dining, and transportation, many cities are temporarily or permanently closing streets, parking lots, and other public infrastructure assets.â€ť
Paved parking lots and roadways are also being reexamined for their impact on human and environmental health, especially how stormwater runoff picks up contaminants that end up in waterways.
The impetus behind park transformation can emanate from many sources, like the organic community engagement that helped create Chicano Park, a national landmark in San Diego; the drive of a visionary leader as at Norman B. Leventhal Park in Bostonâ€™s Financial District; or the determination of a city planning department as in Dutch Kills Green and the Queensboro Bridge Greenway in Queens, N.Y. â€śRegardless of the spark, the ability to look at an automobile-oriented place and see the possibilities for a greener, healthier, and more sustainable future is essential,â€ť ULI states.
Collaboration in these endeavors is key. The report points to the birth of Roosevelt Plaza Park in Camden, N.J., which required leadership from the city and the redevelopment authority, as well as ongoing leadership from Cooperâ€™s Ferry Partnership, a private nonprofit redevelopment corporation. â€śWhen many stakeholders are involved, it is important for partnersâ€™ unique expertise and priorities to be understood and respected,â€ť says ULI.
Roosevelt Plaza Park replaced a building that included a parking garage, office space, and ground-floor retail. The building was condemned in 2003 and demolished eight years later. The spaceâ€”which is located at the front door of City Hallâ€”was reopened as a plaza in 2012.
The Camden Redevelopment Agency constructed the 1.5-acre park with Cooperâ€™s Ferry Partnership. Two years later, a series of pop-up and semi-permanent installations and rotating programming created a flexible changeable model to attract parkgoers. And a partnership of Camden stakeholders stepped in to ensure that its ongoing programing would make it a safe and welcoming space for all residents.
Group Melvin Design and Sikora Wells Appel were the designers on this $9 million project.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT IN DESIGN
Data collection was essential in the case of Philadelphiaâ€™s Porch at 30th Street, where project developers had to come up with a variety of programming to engage new stakeholde