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A Smattering of New Great City Parks

Bremen Street Park, East Boston (Source: BRW)

Each Year, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) recognizes one urban public space with the Amanda Burden Open Space Award, whose generous $10,000 prize rewards the project that has most “enriched and revitalized its surrounding community.” The award’s twelve person jury recently named its six finalists, chosen from a pool of 88 applicants. These included Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park, which Ben Welle profiled last year. The winner will be announced on April 16. From Planetizen, here are descriptions of the finalists:

• Bremen Street Park, Boston, Massachusetts (Brown, Richardson & Rowe, Inc./Massport): Bremen Street Park replaced a Park ‘n Fly lot, reuniting a neighborhood in East Boston that was formerly divided by an airport and highway. The 18.5-acre rectilinear park provides significant public space accessible to mass transit in a diverse, low-income neighborhood.

• Campus Martius Park, Detroit, Michigan (Detroit 300 Conservancy): Known as “Detroit’s Official Gathering Place,” Campus Martius Park has become the heart of the city’s downtown redevelopment, transforming a desolate area into a vibrant central square. The space attracts more than 2 million visitors year-round and has catalyzed an estimated $700 million of adjacent development.

• Falls Park on the Reedy, Greenville, South Carolina (City of Greenville): Reclaimed riverfront land once used by textile mills, Falls Park on the Reedy is a 26-acre park that straddles the Reedy River in downtown Greenville. The park—responsible for accelerating private development in the city’s historic West End—features a curving pedestrian suspension bridge that overlooks the natural falls.

• Herald and Greeley Square Parks, New York, New York (34th Street Partnership): Once desolate and dangerous, Herald and Greeley Square Parks in New York City have been recently renovated, becoming a haven for the neighborhood’s residents, visitors, and workers. The well-shaded triangular pocket parks feature movable seating flanked by raised flower beds, creating protected public space in one of the busiest and most urbanized locales in the world.

• Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, Washington (Seattle Art Museum): The nine-acre Olympic Sculpture Park has reclaimed Seattle’s waterfront for its residents, whose access had been restricted by rail lines and a highway. The z-shaped topography rises above the existing infrastructure, providing access to a restored beach designed for ecological education and serving as a home for the Seattle Art Museum’s sculpture collection. With more than 1.5 million visitors in three years, this green space has become a vibrant, year-round gathering place.

• Schenley Plaza, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy): Schenley Plaza has transformed an overgrown parking lot into a five-acre green space in Pittsburgh’s Oakland Civic and Cultural District. The urban square—which features a large lawn, multiple gardens, and a carousel—is designed to erase divisions in the community and improve circulation among the nearby university campuses, offices, and residential neighborhoods.

Photos of these exemplary city parks are available on ULI’s Facebook page. These projects incorporate many of the park design attributes we write about on this blog, including redeveloping parking lots, incorporating public art,  improving park access in low income areas, connecting with mass transit and using pocket parks to provide social space and mental respite in dense downtowns.

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