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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

Community-Led Park Partnerships: It’s Not Just the Money

The Cully neighborhood is considered the most “parks-deficient” neighborhood in Portland. Citywide, 40 percent of residents live within a quarter-mile of a park. In Cully, only 24 percent do, with almost 23 percent of neighborhood children living in poverty.

Cully 1For over twenty years, Cully residents set their sights on the conversion of a 25-acre grassy field in the neighborhood, well-located and large enough for a range of community activities – even if it happened to be the site of a former landfill.

Tony DeFalco, Coordinator for Let Us Build Cully Park! (LUBCP!) recalls, “The community wanted it badly enough to figure out a way to build it. You had 25 acres, active methane collection and multiple partners involved in managing the site. We knew we needed to raise capital to organize a working coalition.”

Verde, a non-profit dedicated to building wealth in low-income communities, has been working with residents of Cully Park but as early as 1996, residents and the Cully Association of Neighbors negotiated with the mayor for a parks master plan. In 2010, Verde spearheaded development of LUBCP!, which was formed with the help of a $150,000 grant from the Northwest Health Foundation. Their coalition included 16 other organizations to maintain the community’s presence with municipal, environmental, and public health agencies through the redevelopment process for the site. Continue reading

Volunteers Bring a Garden Back to Bloom

Each month, City Parks Alliance names one “Frontline Park” as a standout example of urban park excellence, innovation and stewardship from across the country. The program identifies city parks that find innovative ways to meet the unique challenges faced as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures and urban neighborhood decay. In recognition of its unique approach to partnerships and volunteer engagement, San Jose Municipal Rose Garden in San Jose, CA has been named a Frontline Park.

“To have the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden selected as a Frontline Park by the City Parks Alliance is a great honor for the City, and countless volunteers,” said Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio.  “This model of community partnership can be adopted by other cities to leverage their resources as a benefit for all.”

“We selected San Jose Municipal Rose Garden as a Frontline Park because it exemplifies the power of urban parks to build community and make our cities sustainable and vibrant,” said Catherine Nagel, Executive Director, City Parks Alliance. “We hope that by shining the spotlight on San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, we can raise awareness about the ways investment in our nation’s urban parks pays off.”
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Seizing the Day with Parke Diem

By Matthew Shulman

In a single weekend, how many people could you rally to restore your city’s parks?

parkediem1How about 1,400?

That’s what the Portland Parks Foundation recently accomplished through Parke Diem, the largest citywide parks volunteer effort in Portland history. Carpe Diem, a Latin phrase coined in 23 B.C, literally translates to “seize the day.” “Parke Diem” plays homage to this historic aphorism by challenging Portland residents to go outdoors—in rain or shine—and show support for the city’s many beloved parks. For two days in October 2013, Portlanders of all ages logged an amazing 4,600 hours cleaning, repairing, and planting vegetation in 18 developed parks, 14 natural areas, 4 arboretums, 33 community gardens, and a recreation center.

Nick Hardigg, Executive Director of the Portland Parks Foundation, explained how “there were a lot of networks that were doing a lot of good stuff” for Portland’s parks. In an effort to merge these networks, the City, Forest Park Conservancy, No Ivy League and other park advocacy organizations worked to create a fun event dedicated to volunteerism. The Portland Parks Foundation spent approximately $20,000 worth of staff time to organize Parke Diem, with free summer concerts, outdoor film festivals and raffles providing many opportunities to garner support. “Not a single person said that they wouldn’t find it fun,” he explained. “There was a lot of energy—people wanted to come together and celebrate!” Continue reading

Casting a Broader Net for P3 Lessons

Lately I’ve been reading about the growing number of for-profit companies offering their service to local governments to manage certain agency functions. Since the 1980s, when outsourcing became popular, local governments hoping to create cost efficiencies have turned over many of their service needs to private contractors – waste collection, landscaping, IT, and public transit.

But increasingly, smaller cities are contracting to have private companies run whole departments or whole cities. Elected officials and even some voters see this as a cost cutting move and an efficient use of tax dollars. Companies offering this service can proudly show their success with improved management, lower costs, and better value for the tax dollar. There is, of course, a lot of debate about all this.
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