Research from the Urban Parks Institute

The revitalization of a neighborhood park or public space is a complex process of planning, funding and implementation that may or may not result in success. In order to determine some of the key elements that make for success, the Institute reviewed the master planning processes involved in the redevelopment of six urban public spaces: Albert Park in San Rafael, California; Leon Day Park in Baltimore, Maryland; Frederick Douglass Circle in New York City, New York; Cesar Chavez Plaza Park in Sacramento, California; Market Square in the Village of Ossining, New York; and Patterson Park in Baltimore, Maryland. Our process included a review of relevant materials about the process as well as interviews with key people involved.

All of the master planning processes that we looked at included extensive community input during the planning process. Sometimes, the community initiated the process, at other times the community inserted itself into the process, and in still other cases, the public sector had a process that incorporated the community from the outset. In that sense, all of these plans were community-based, and stand apart from the more traditional master-planning approach, in which planners develop alternatives to be reviewed by the community.

  • In Albert Park, local residents initiated the revitalization project as a way to improve the conditions and use of the park. They met with the Director of the Parks and Recreation Department who then functioned as a facilitator and guide
    for the broad-based community planning process and implementation of the phased development. Read the case description and further details.
  • In Leon Day Park, two non-profit organizations initiated the neighborhood project as part of a larger trail project and as a way to broaden community participation and support. The project involved extensive outreach to the local community
    and forged new partnerships among city representatives, non-profits, and a volunteer organization of design professionals. Read the case description and further details.
  • In Frederick Douglass Circle, local residents initiated the project by approaching a non-profit conservancy to aid them in revitalizing a traffic circle that was under the city’s jurisdiction. The project challenged the nature of the way
    the conservancy had traditionally worked and built a more trusting relationship between the conservancy, the community and the city. Read the case description and further details.
  • In Cesar Chavez Plaza Park, the process was initiated by the city with a series of studies and improvements in and around the area over a period of time. Motivated by difficulties they had experienced leasing new office space, a private management company expedited the redevelopment process by developing a plan and offering to construct and fund a portion of the redevelopment. New partnerships between the private sector and the city were forged as part of the redevelopment process. Read the case description and further details.
  • In the Village of Ossining, the Village Planner initiated the project as part of a larger community planning process to revitalize the downtown. Redevelopment of the space in this case was initiated as a way to bring more people to the
    downtown area. Read the case description and further details.
  • In Patterson Park, after a consortium of community leaders put together an area plan, and urban planning students produced a community-based plan for the revitalization of the park, the Department of Parks initiated and facilitated a
    master planning process for Patterson Park involving community residents, interested others, and students and faculty of the Urban Planning Program at the University of Maryland. The project created working relationships among the community, city agencies and the University. Read the case description and further details.

In some of the cases we examined, full or partial funding was in place at the start of the project, in others funding was put together a bit at a time along the way among a variety of sources, and in still others, funding is currently being sought. The designs reflect different desired uses, issues and concerns. Responsibilities for the maintenance and management of the spaces are shared among a variety of entities: city agencies, volunteer groups, and non-profit management organizations. Some projects have yet to work out the arrangements.

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