Since our founding in 1975, PPS’ research activities have always been a major component of our work, both in seeking out the most successful cases of community-responsive civic design, and in assessing how specific innovations and approaches accomplish their goals. Therefore, PPS research has encompassed not only traditional research techniques, such as surveys/questionnaires and literature searches, but also more hands-on explorations such as interviews, focus groups and on-site observations and analysis.
In keeping with this pragmatic, results-oriented approach, PPS’s research projects have often resulted in handbooks and other publications, as well as audio-visual media such as films, tapes, CDs and websites. The findings of these research projects inform our overall mission as well as provide practical guidance to communities in the improvement of their public spaces and in methods for ensuring meaningful and productive public involvement in the planning and decision-making process.
The following is a small sampling of our past and present research projects:
Eating Healthy Research
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
In partnership with Columbia University, PPS is currently examining strategies for implementing farmers markets in low-income communities as well as barriers that need to be addressed to improve the viability of markets in these areas. The project focuses on several former PPS grantees from across the country, each of whom has implemented a variety of strategies to enhance the sustainability and community impact of their markets. This research combines case study analysis and an examination of a wide array of existing data collected by the markets, including customer surveys and annual management reports, with new data collection including a survey of customers and local residents and focus groups with youth involved in farmers markets.
Federal Transit Administration, Federal Highway Administration, Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Foundation
PPS has always devoted a good deal of its research activities to how transportation can act as a catalyst for creating livable communities and the policies and systems that can advance this role. In the past few years, as recognition has grown of the community-building potential of transportation, PPS has been receiving assignments for major research projects concerning this important issue. These include a report on tools to engage transit-dependent communities for the Federal Transit Administration; a website for the Federal Highway Administration on Context Sensitive Solutions for roadway design; a partnership with Reconnecting America related to transit oriented development; ongoing research funded by the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass foundation; and several reports and publications for the Transportation Cooperative Research Board.
Diversifying Markets Initiative
Ford Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Working with the Ford Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, PPS developed a national funding initiative around public markets and farmers markets. With initial support from Ford, we conducted research that demonstrated how public markets provide both a low-cost entry point for new businesses and a focal point for bringing diverse groups of people together . This research was soon complemented by a grant from Kellogg to explore the role farmers markets play in supporting local food systems. Using these findings as a departure point, with continued support from Ford and Kellogg, PPS developed a national funding program for public markets in low and moderate-income communities. The final report is now available.
Urban Parks Institute
Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund
PPS received a $1 million, five-year grant from the Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund to create the Urban Parks Institute, a pilot research project to collect best practices in urban park development, especially in the areas of public-private partnerships, and promote interdisciplinary problem-solving and facilitate sharing of successful strategies among experts and practitioners in the urban parks field. The Institute created a library of best practices, tools, interviews with expert practitioners and consultants, and other lessons and wisdom gathered from parks systems and programs across the country – through in-depth research including computer and literature searches, surveys, interviews, cooperative information sharing, interactive workshops and focus groups. Much of this research is still available through our parks portal.
General Services Administration
PPS worked with Center for Urban Development, Public Buildings Service of the U. S. General Services Administration in a nationwide program to help GSA’s regional offices leverage federal real estate actions in ways that support communities – to bolster community efforts to encourage smart growth, economic vitality, and cultural vibrancy through partnerships among federal agencies, communities, and the private sector. One product of this engagement was a comprehensive publication, Achieving Great Federal Public Spaces: A Property Manager’s Guide, designed for federal and non-federal public building property managers seeking to evaluate and improve their lobbies, atriums, plazas, courtyards, and other public spaces.
For more information on research or to collaborate on a project, please call 212-620-5660.