Cities Reinvesting in Parks and Plazas

Joann Greco of The Washington Post recently pointed to the reemergence of municipal investment in relatively low-cost projects like city parks and plazas as a strategy to spur downtown investment. Though many municipalities are focused on fiscal austerity, these low-cost investments are a cost-effective step toward transforming city centers into multifunctional green, commerce, and recreational spaces. Public squares alone cannot make a livable downtown or a vibrant neighborhood. But when properly placed and when supported with the right amenities and infrastructure, they can unite the local urban fabric and serve as spaces that residents, nearby workers, and visitors can share.

A number of cities across North America are implementing projects that fit the trend Greco highlights. The city of Mississauga in Ontario, Canada, recently opened a new square in its city center as part of a process that included broad public input and an extensive series of programming to transform the square into both a local and regional attraction. As Megan MacIver of Project for Public Spaces writes:

“From the intense involvement of more than 1500 Mississauga citizens in several rounds of community workshops and visioning sessions, it was clear everyone wanted their new Square to become the heart of the city- a place full of events that give people a reason to come enjoy their downtown.”

Similarly, revamped city plazas and parks in both Houston and Pittsburgh have recently opened. So far, all three projects have seen success in catalyzing investment in the neighboring downtown (such as new apartments, restaurants, and office buildings) and in serving as attractive places by which to work and live.

(Above: Celebration Square in Mississauga by Flickr User Twiter)

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