Downtown Open Space: A Call For Case Studies

Campus Martius Park in Detroit

Last year Concentrate hosted the president of the conservancy which developed and oversees Detroit’s Campus Martius Park, Bob Gregory.

I didn’t make it to the presentation itself, but I did watch the video (which I highly recommend). One thing that impressed me with Mr. Gregory’s presentation is that he describes the in-depth process that led to the design of the park, including exhaustive review of other urban parks to see what works and what doesn’t.

What I heard from Mr. Gregory was a strong case for the importance of getting urban open space right in terms of scale, design, and context.

As the Parks Advisory Commission explores open space in a near downtown (see Chronicle coverage), I would love to case studies of 5-10 successful urban open spaces and 5-10 unsuccessful urban open spaces so that we can explore what works and what doesn’t at a deeper level than “I like this” or “I don’t like that.” We could have both qualitative analysis as well as quantitative analysis about:

  • size
  • development cost
  • maintenance costs
  • exteranl funding
  • surrounding uses
  • Density: how many residents w/in 1/4 mile radius? How many square feet of commercial and office?
  • Open space: How much public and private open space within 1/4 mile? How much of that is green space?
  • What are the uses of the properties adjacent to the open spaces? How do they interact with the open space?
  • How does the open space relate to traffic flows (human, pedestrian)
  • What amenities are on the sites (art, water features, play equipment, etc.)

I think such an analysis would really help us understand the successes and failures of other open spaces so that we get get it right when we plan this one.