Turning Brownfields Into Parks

The subject of this excellent article from City Parks Blog.

An excerpt.

“Back in 1975, the rusted pipes and immense corroded tanks of Seattle’s Gasworks Park seemed bizarre and incongruous against its verdant lawns. If old factory brownfields were repellent, and green parks were alluring, how could the two ever mate? But the imaginative flash by landscape architect Richard Haag broke that mold, and the reuse of that polluted property gave rise to an icon….

“More than three decades later and 2,400 miles away a new icon is emerging in the city of Houston, also on a former brownfield. Twelve-acre Discovery Green is not only restoring ecological life to a blighted area but is also stimulating the kind of downtown redevelopment the city hasn’t seen in over half a century. Thirteen months after the park opened in 2008, apartments started renting at One Park Place, a luxury building across the street—the first downtown high-rise constructed in the city since the 1950s. This summer a 28,000-square-foot grocery store opened, another downtown event not witnessed during most residents’ lifetimes.

“But the road from Gasworks Park to Discovery Green has been a bumpy one. Despite the existence of hundreds of thousands of urban brownfields — patches of earth contaminated by previous uses – the vast majority have not become parks. In a more common plotline, the demise of an urban factory results in a fenced property that sits vacant for decades and, if lucky, gets rebuilt as some other structure….

“There is plenty of data to substantiate the power of parks. In his book, The Proximate Principle: The Impact of Parks, Open Space and Water Features on Residential Property Values and the Property Tax Base, Texas A&M University professor John Crompton cites 25 studies that record increased property values around the perimeter of parks. In some cases, the economic impact can be measured as far as 2,000 feet away. Removing industrial blight has other impacts: EPA has documented property value improvements of two to three percent within a one-mile radius of a cleaned up brownfield, even without turning it into a park.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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