[Video] What Makes an Urban Park Successful (from New York to Los Angeles)?


How does Greeley Square, an urban park, function in Midtown Manhattan?

As Downtown LA continues to densify and revitalize, my recent trip this past week to New York offered some great insights into fundamental concepts pertaining to the way an urban park functions within the context of a dense urban environment. Those concepts could be used as a template and applied to a growing Downtown LA as we continue to mature into a livable urban center. Perhaps this video will shed some light on some current urban parks within Downtown LA, such as Maguire Gardens and Pershing Square, and why they are being used or not.

Please, please keep in mind while watching my video that it is just as (if not more) important what surrounds an urban park as the actual park itself in order for it to be successfully activated by pedestrians. Walkable density around the park is key here.

16 Responses to [Video] What Makes an Urban Park Successful (from New York to Los Angeles)?

  1. well, technically, at least in land area, Pasadena is slightly larger than Manhattan. :-)

    (sorry, couldn’t resist!)

    • Really? According to everyone’s favorite online encyclopedia:
      Manhattan: 33.77 sq mi
      Pasadena: 23.2 sq mi
      I haven’t tried to verify these independently.

      • Key words are “land area”… according to that same online encyclopedia:

        Manhattan: 22.96 sq mi
        Pasadena: 23.1 sq mi

        • Thanks, I didn’t catch that1 So there’s a difference of 0.14 square mile. I guess draining the reservoir in Central Park would fix that. Maybe even draining Belvedere Lake would be enough.

          – Geoff (who’s live in both places.)

  2. Brigham, have you ever read “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces” by William H. Whyte? It’s one of the eye-opening works on how and why some urban spaces succeed while other fail. Along with Keven Lynch’s “The Image of the City”, it is one of the works that anyone interesting in urban planning really should read.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0262620014
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/097063241X

  3. “it is just as (if not more) important what surrounds an urban park as the actual park itself in order for it to be successfully activated by pedestrians”

    ^ Exactly! Many feel that they can “program” their way to a successful park and while it helps to have programming, it is the density of housing and mixture of uses surrounding the park that will ultimately dictate how well it’s utilized by regular residents and pedestrians.

    Take Central Park for example. It’s a beautiful space in a great location, however it remains underutilized for the most part. The reason? a lack of residential and commercial density immediately nearby. If there were more projects surrounding it like the Del Mar Station, which includes both housing and restaurant space surrounding , it might attract more pedetrian traffic.

  4. San Francisco has created similar “parks” within the city. I think they are being called mini parks. One is in the Castro, 17th and Market. Really small but great spaces where people can stop, relax, chat etc..
    Don’t know if we are pedestrian enough in Pasadena, yet.

  5. thank you for that little slice of NYC–the best city in the country!

    • NYC is definitely the most energetic, walkable, and well planned city in North America.

      People in LA are resistant to density. Without density you cannot have mass transit. Without mass transit you cannot have a pedestrian oriented culture. Without pedestrian culture you cannot have energy. Without energy LA remains nothing but a gigantic suburban sprawling mess without a soul.

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