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Trend: Large Music Festivals in City Parks

Zilker Park, Austin, Tex.

In recent years, city parks have become home to several music festivals featuring such bands as Radiohead, Cat Power, Kings of Leon, The Roots, Atmosphere and other mostly indie groups. The Bonnaroo and Coachella festivals, set in rural areas, have catered to this genre for quite a few years, but recently more of them have sprouted in the middle of population centers — and parks are a natural, open location for the events, that can draw thousands. Chicago has hosted the indie-music website Pitchfork’s festival in Union Park and the larger Lollapalooza in Grant Park. There’s Outside Lands in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Jersey City hosted the All Points West Festival in Liberty State Park, and concluding just this past Sept. 26 to 28 was the Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival in Austin’s 350-acre Zilker Park.

Austin360 picks up on the events’ financial contribution to city parks, and the benefits of them to bands:

The successes of ACL Fest and Lollapalooza — each earmark part of the proceeds to the respective parks departments overseeing the events — inspired the City of San Francisco in August to allow the Outside Lands Festival, a concert by another promoter, to operate after dark at Golden Gate Park for the first time. C3 Presents pays the Austin Parks Department more than $200,000 a year and has pledged an additional $2.5 million for park improvements over the next seven to 10 years. C3 pays the Chicago’s Parkways Foundation $1 million a year for the use of Grant Park for Lollapalooza.

While cash-strapped city parks departments have warmed to the festival format, so have the artists. Because CD sales have declined in recent years, acts have to hit the road to make money. Festivals can also provide great exposure. At a panel at the Americana Music Association conference in Nashville last week focusing on the flurry of festivals, C3 partner Charlie Walker said “every band playing ACL this year will sell more tickets the next time they come through town.”

Whether the trend lasts is not known, and the events do essentially take away use from the general public for a couple days. But in some cities it presents an opportunity, if wanted, to draw some money and attention to city parks.

Travelers’ Picks for Park Cities

Travel + Leisure is out with its 2008 America’s Favorite Cities survey, which asked travelers to rank 25 top U.S. cities in 45 categories, ranging from food and shopping to people, culture, nightlife, and more. (Reportedly more than 125,000 opinionated travelers voted.) “Parks and access to the outdoors” is one area the magazine surveys on, and the top 5 cities (through travelers eyes) are: 1) Portland; 2) Honolulu; 3) San Diego; 4) Seattle and 5) Minneapolis/St. Paul. (See the full rankings.)

Build Parks, See Investment

New York Times

Hudson River Park, NY Times

There’s more evidence of parks positive affect on property values from New York City. A new report issued today by the Friends of Hudson River Park found that the $75 million the public invested in a section of the park in Greenwich Village sprouted into an additional $200 million in property values in a two-block area from 2002 to 2005 According to he New York Times City Room:

The study found that about a fifth of the value of properties within two blocks of the Greenwich Village section of the park can be attributed to the park, and that real estate prices near the park began to rise only when its construction began in 1997. And the park had a significant effect on nearby condo sales, as their prices increased by 80 percent once the Greenwich Village section of the park was completed in 2003.

The study was conducted by the Regional Plan Association. The findings offer more real numbers that park development is economic development.

Parks and Sustainable Cities: The Rankings

SustainLane is out with its annual ranking of sustainability for the 50 most-populous cities in the nation, benchmarking each city’s performance in 16 areas.

The particular category of interest to parks is “Planning & Land Use,” which combines data from the Center for City Park Excellence on parks as a percent of land area in each city with Smart Growth America’s sprawl rankings. The result is that the top ranked cities are those that combine a large percentage of space for parks and conservation with more densely populated development on the rest of the land. The top five cities in this category are: New York, San Francisco, Portland, Boston and Albuquerque.

The message is that fighting sprawl with conservation is only as good as the density of development on what’s not conserved. Otherwise, sprawl could actually be made worse with leap frog development stretching further into the countryside. When you get the corresponding higher density development, however, that saves energy usage, infrastructure costs and vehicle miles traveled. Parks are ever more important in providing the space for people to play.

Park(ing) Day 2008 Photos

Denver’s Mayor John Hickenlooper enjoys a new Denver park, courtesy of Park(ing) Day 2008. See the Mayor and more pictures at TPL’s Flickr pool of the event.