Peter Harnik: Need for Parks

ULI's UrbanLand:

While a number of big-city mayors and even a governor have endorsed the goal of providing parks or other open spaces within a ten-minute walk of residents, adding enough parks to serve all 249 million people living in U.S. cities, suburbs, and urbanized areas—83 percent of the population—will be a challenge.

There is another, concurrent approach to providing Americans with a nearby park: bringing more dwellings to the periphery of existing parks to increase density on their edges. This is what TPL researcher Kyle Barnhart calls, “not only ‘parks for people,’ but also ‘people for the parks.’”

The concept is parallel to the approach taken with transit. It is well established that the expense of building and operating transit lines can and should be earned back through the promotion of transit-oriented development—dense pockets of housing, commercial space, and retail development within 2,000 feet (610 m) of subway stations and major trolley and bus stops. Arlington, Virginia, for example, has won numerous awards—and achieved notable economic success—by closely tying compact residential and commercial redevelopment to six of its Metro stations.

The same logic can hold for park-oriented development. While studies by Smart Growth America and others show that transit is the strongest generator of demand for urban consolidation and density, parks can be high on that list, too. This has been shown in compact redevelopment in such places as Philadelphia (around Hawthorne Park), St. Paul, Minnesota (around Wacouta Commons), and Denver (along Commons and Confluence parks).