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Balancing the “Private” in a Public-Private Partnership: Orange County Great Park

Recently I talked with Mike Ellzey, the Chief Executive Officer of the Orange County Great Park Corporation, the nonprofit public benefit organization charged with the design, construction, and maintenance of the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California. We spoke soon after the city struck a new deal with the project’s related housing developer that puts the park back on solid ground after the 2008 real estate crash and the state’s dissolution of its redevelopment agencies threatened its completion.

OCGP2The Orange County Great Park is the official name for the park portion of a reuse plan for the decommissioned Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, in Irvine, California. The 2002 voter approval for this very ambitious project ($1.4 billion budget) – after 3 previous initiatives failed – envisioned a team of partners to bring off the project, including a public nonprofit corporation charged with the design, construction, and maintenance of the Orange County Great Park.

Following the annexation of the property by the city of Irvine in 2003, the Navy held an online auction for the El Toro property. Miami-based Lennar Corporation purchased the entire property for $650 million and entered into a development agreement with the City of Irvine. Under the terms of the development agreement, Lennar was granted limited development rights to build the Great Park Neighborhoods in return for land and capital – $200 million – to allow the construction of the Great Park. Continue reading

People and their Playgrounds

By Matthew Shulman

How do urbanites use public playgrounds? Do they use them every day? Who uses them? How are they maintained? Is collecting this information even possible? These were some of the many questions posed when a team of public space researchers from New Yorkers for Parks and New York University collaborated on the daunting task of obtaining this elusive yet vital information.

The findings have been published in Understanding Playground Utilization, a new report that digs deeply into the users of 10 sample neighborhood playgrounds. The results as well as the methodology employed can be illuminating not only for the rest of city’s 1,900 parks but also to the parks of many other cities around the country.
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Paradise Built on a Parking Lot

Each month, City Parks Alliance recognizes a “Frontline Park” to promote and highlight inspiring examples of urban park excellence, innovation, and stewardship across the country. The program also seeks to highlight examples of the challenges facing our cities’ parks as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures, and urban neighborhood decay.

Santa Monica, CA
Built on the site previously occupied by the RAND Corporation’s headquarters and more recently a surface parking lot, Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square (once collectively known as the Civic Center Parks) encompass 7 acres in the heart of Santa Monica. The completion of these parks represents the first step toward completing a plan for the 67-acre civic center area, which re-envisioned the area as a vibrant neighborhood with improved linkages to the Santa Monica Pier, Palisades Park, downtown Santa Monica and Santa Monica State Beach.  Continue reading

Seniors Are a Recreation Powerhouse – But Do They Deserve a Discount?

 By John L. Crompton.

 Dr. Crompton is University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University and a former city councilman of College Station, Texas. This blog post is an excerpt from an article published in the December, 2013 issue of Parks and Recreation Magazine.

There are several reasons for recreation and park departments to consider moving seniors to the center of their service efforts – most significantly because of their rapidly increasing numbers. In 2011, there were 41.4 million U.S. citizens aged 65 or older. They accounted for 13.3 percent of the U.S. population. The number is projected to increase dramatically to 56 million by 2020 and to 80 million by 2040, at which time they will comprise 21 percent of the population.

In addition to the growth in numbers, there are other factors: extension of active retirement time; contributions to economic development; enhanced leisure literacy; disproportionate political influence; and enhanced discretionary income. In this excerpt, we will look only at the last: enhanced discretionary income.
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Louisville: Private Resources for a Public Park

I’ve talked a lot in this blog about private public partnerships (P3s) where a public agency owns the land and a private partner collaborates on design, development, management or programming. But what about when a private partner owns land for a public park? The next few blog posts will focus on places in the country where private leaders are instrumental in developing and running public parks – on private land. In Louisville, 21st Century Parks (21C) is completing one of the largest new parks in the country – over 4,000 acres – that will be owned and managed by a private nonprofit, working in partnership with Louisville Metro Parks.

Louisville 9-26The Parklands is a donor-supported 4,000-acre park system consisting of four major parks — linked by a park drive.  The park is the vision and work of a group of private leaders and visionaries who wanted to complete the system envisioned by Olmsted’s 1891 design.  Almost all of the land for the park has been privately acquired and put under easement – with 21C developing and managing the park for public use.

I talked with Dan Jones recently about the unique partnership in Louisville with private leadership driving the new park.  Jones is the CEO of 21st Century Parks, the private nonprofit that owns and oversees The Parklands. He and his father, David A. Jones, the co-founder of Humana, have been working on the project for nearly a decade. Together, they have secured more than $120 million of private and public funding to fully fund their vision for a new park system.
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