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Pavement to Parks

A small triangle Pavement-to-Park in San Francisco.

Allison Arieff of the By Design blog at the New York Times commends the programs in New York City and San Francisco to create small plazas and promenades out of  excess street space and land. Example: in San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks program, a triangle of land at the convergence of two streets was turned into a plaza with public art, seating and vegetation.

The concept is simple. Instead of reserving these areas for unnecessary auto capacity or barren pavement, foster a pleasant urban experience. And Arieff raises an excellent point:

Today, people and the cities they live in are short on cash but long on ingenuity (and on boneyards full of discarded materials waiting for inventive reuse). Programs like Pavement to Parks and Green Light Manhattan have an irresistible immediacy to them, and while they may not rival Olmsted or Field Operations (who designed the High Line) in their aesthetic, they make up for it in spirit and sustainability. And remember, these are being done for next to no money.

And for this what do cities get in return: environmentally, better stormwater management and less car dependence; socially, a place for neighbors to gather; and economically, a boon to adjacent property values rather than a blight — which may pay for these small projects in itself.

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