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Thread: Pocket parks

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Pocket parks

    I am wanting to get some input on pocket parks. Mattoon's new redevelopment plan shows the demolition of five buildings for a parking lot and pocket park.

    I have argued that parks in the heart of a six block business district will not stimulate the local economy. And razing buildings with existing businesses in them will hurt the community with lost retail and tax revenues.

    I am willing to concede that the pocket parks will not hurt the area if it is placed in an area where the buildings have allready been lost. I have suggested several locations to the city, but they seem to have their blinders on. Or is it me who has the blinders on?

    You can compare the two plans at my website http://www.savemattoon.org

    Thanks in advance for your input,
    Chris

    Also, what is the best location for a pocket park? The location on the City's plan has parking on all four sides of the park. This doesn't seem pedestrian friendly at all.
    Last edited by noottamevas; 17 Apr 2005 at 10:01 AM. Reason: Also....

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Have you looked at the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) website:
    http://www.pps.org/

    using their site search for pocket park results - 76 listings
    Oddball
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian Budgie's avatar
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    Look no further than the classics. Jane Jacobs discussion of parks in urban areas very estutely explains the life of parks in commercial areas and should be complimentary to real economic vitality, which is in the delicate mix of commercial and residential uses that make parks vibrant places. IMO, parks and parking lots without viable commercial and residential activities are dead space and contributes virtually nothing to the local economy.
    "And all this terrible change had come about because he had ceased to believe himself and had taken to believing others. " - Leo Tolstoy

  4. #4
    Member Jeff_Rosenberg's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Budgie
    IMO, parks and parking lots without viable commercial and residential activities are dead space and contributes virtually nothing to the local economy.
    I agree with that.

    And maybe this is just my planning-geekiness showing through, but I find that I enjoy a pocket park most when it is in a dense area, surrounded by buildings.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    The thing I see happen with downtown parks is that everybody is eager to build them, and nobody thinks about how they will be used.I worked in a city that dropped $2-3 million on an award-winning park. The city manager said along, as it was being designed and built, that the chamber of commerce would program it with events all year long. The chamber, all along the time it was being designed and built, that they did not have the resources and would not be programming it. The city's own parks department did not have the staff, money, or desire to operate the concession and boat rental facilities, so they have never been used.

    Downtown parks should be thought of as a business venture. What is the purpose of the park? Is there a market for the use? How much will it cost to build and maintain? Are the resources to program it available? These questions should all contribute to the discussion of where it would best be placed.

    I'd like to offer you some more thoughts, but the plans on your web site were not high-enough resolution for me to be able to read them. PM me if you have better versions and I'll send you my e-mail.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  6. #6
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    Downtowns need "spaces" and not parks. Many downtowns are spiffing up sidewalks as attractive places to walk and meet. Many downtown parks are unused.

    It appears that the goal is a revitalized downtown. Is it getting better with the past actions? The Main Street Program http://www.mainstreet.org/ is by far the most successful downtown revitalization program in effect today. The heart of the Main Street program is historic preservation - not demolition.

    I would be more concerned about demolition for parking than for parks. It sounds like a lot of nice buildings have already been demolished for parking.

    One good approach to parking is to go out and count vacant parking spaces. If there are a lot, you don't need to provide more vacant parking. Count the whole downtown, not just the couple of lots in the core. Most downtowns have a lot of vacant parking. It's often an eye opener to point out that there are several hundred vacant parking spaces at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

    If there are any other downtown parks, look at them to see if they are used. If not, just like parking, you have a point to make.

    Finally, if there is to be a park, it should do something for the downtown. A pocket park will not draw any new people downtown. "Hey, let's drive downtown to the park." Pedestrians won't go out of their way if the park is passive. Most downtown parks are emply, even if there are hundreds of people on the adjoining street.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Wulf9
    Downtowns need "spaces" and not parks......
    This is exactly what I have been arguing. There are over 2300 parking spaces in downtown Mattoon. I have pictures of empty parking lots in the middle of the day.
    They say that's because they are in the wrong place. The entire downtown area is six blocks long by three blocks wide. You can park on one side and walk to the other in about 3 minutes.

    There is also a totaly unused plaza built in the 1980's. I site this as an example for not building a park.

    As far as the Main Street Program goes, Mattoon belonged to Main Street in the 1990's. They threw us out because we kept tearing down buildings for parking lots. I approached the city last year about rejoining (before this plan came out), they were not interested because they didn't want to be bound by there rules (translation: they don't want to pass a historic preservation ordinance). I suspect this plan was already in the works at that time.

    I could go on, but hear crickets so I won't bore anyone anymore with the small town politics of Mattoon.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by savemattoon
    Also, what is the best location for a pocket park? The location on the City's plan has parking on all four sides of the park. This doesn't seem pedestrian friendly at all.
    And even active pedestrian-friendly downtowns have their fair share of urban parks that are hardly used, or heaven forbid, wasted.

    Case in point, Liberty Plaza in Ann Arbor isn't the most inviting urban oasis.

    Visit that link, and the official City of Ann Arbor site will tell you is that "Liberty Plaza is a .26-acre urban plaza in downtown Ann Arbor located next to the Kempf House on the corner of Division and Liberty. The plaza has two levels with benches and planters with landscaping. There is a drinking fountain and portable restroom. This is a great lunch spot for downtown businesses." What they don't tell you is that those restrooms are porta-potties and many homeless men hang around there, during the day and at night.

  9. #9
    [QUOTE=Wulf9]Downtowns need "spaces" and not parks. [QUOTE]


    I kind of disagree,though. Spaces or parks are needed for downtows when they are located on the right locations. I think we have to concern much more about viable locations and the users. They will be useless if we put them on the wrong locations. Just one opinion.

    I have also looked at mattoon's website. I didn't spend much time looking at it,though. So,my opinion might not be right.I have just one comment on landscape part. Try to link green areas together if you could. (central park and that pocket one)
    Universe is not wide enough to be planned.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Mee
    Try to link green areas together if you could. (central park and that pocket one)
    My apologies, the central park was taken out of the plan. The row of buildings in this location has some of the most successful small business in downtown. I do not yet have a digital copy of the newer version.

  11. #11

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    You need to look at William H Whyte's books, including City. He is really the guru of how make urban spaces work.

    If I were you, I would be a lot more worried about the parking. Surface parking just kills downtowns if there is too much of it.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Whyte's film is great too. . .

    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    You need to look at William H Whyte's books, including City. He is really the guru of how make urban spaces work.

    If I were you, I would be a lot more worried about the parking. Surface parking just kills downtowns if there is too much of it.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    It amazes me that there are places still using a 1970's approach to downtown redevelopment. That kind of thinking has produced failures all over the country. All that surface parking can have a blighting effect. It is, as other posters have noted, dead space. Pocket parks, if not thoughtfully designed, can also end up as dead space. Good luck in your campaign. At least someone there has the right idea. And don't ignore the effect the big box stores out on the highway can have on the downtown. That can make beautifully designed streetscapes and pocket parks a vain effort.
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  14. #14
    Suspended Bad Email Address teshadoh's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by boilerplater
    It amazes me that there are places still using a 1970's approach to downtown redevelopment. That kind of thinking has produced failures all over the country. All that surface parking can have a blighting effect. It is, as other posters have noted, dead space. Pocket parks, if not thoughtfully designed, can also end up as dead space. Good luck in your campaign. At least someone there has the right idea. And don't ignore the effect the big box stores out on the highway can have on the downtown. That can make beautifully designed streetscapes and pocket parks a vain effort.
    All they would have to do in order to fulfill the 1970's planning expecation would be to cover the downtown street & market it as a mall

    But I sincerely wish you the best of luck - I reviewed your website & I am sorry they would seriously consider this feasible.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I would much recommend a tiny plaza or garden instead. Parks are for residential areas...areas with kids. And to knock down important civic buildings for parkland is pointless. If a community gathering spot already exists, there's no sense tearing it down for a park. If the community is interested in aesthetics, they should try decorative lighting, facades, bricking, etc. Not tearing down buildings.
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  16. #16
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by savemattoon
    Also, what is the best location for a pocket park? The location on the City's plan has parking on all four sides of the park. This doesn't seem pedestrian friendly at all.
    There will be a long, windy, barren, pedestrian-unfriendly stretch all the way from the railroad bridge to the back of the buildings fronting 16th Street (? can't read street name). The parking areas should be built behind the existing commercial structures, if it is at all. It looks like there is already a park/plaza planned for behind the library. Another one surrounded by parking, roads and railroad tracks will likely see little activity.

    In short this looks like a plan for a suburban shopping center or "lifestyle center," not a downtown. Maybe that's what will work in your neck of the woods?

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello
    In short this looks like a plan for a suburban shopping center or "lifestyle center," not a downtown. Maybe that's what will work in your neck of the woods?
    There are people in town who think the only way downtown will become vibrant again is to emulate a suburban shopping center. I have been trying to show them that's the direction we have been headed for 30 years, and it obviously isn't working. It is hard to change minds.

    Quote Originally posted by jmello
    (? can't read street name)
    There are "hot boxes" on the map that zoom in where you can read all the text.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    I'm sorry to say that I haven't been following your threads closely enough to know the nature of your town. I would agree with others that a true 'park' as opposed to square, etc. may not be the best use of that location. However, I qualified that with a 'may' as I have seen similar parks end up quite successful as they were designed for public gathering, including a small stage-like area, for concerts in the park. Also, some park areas in downtown have successful ice skating rinks that attract people downtown on the weekends and on evenings, allowing adjacent retail areas to stay open later in the winter. So I wouldn't say that a park there is a totally bad idea, I would just be very careful about how it is designed and try to tie it's use to an economic strategy for the surrounding area.

  19. #19

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    Many malls have or are adding playground equipment for children. I have read that having parks near retail will benefit the retail. Lunch parks obviously help promote nearby restaurants if benches and tables are available.

    I would think that pocket parks are best suited for an alley or in between buildings. Locating a parket park perpendicular to the main street allows for a larger park without taking up valuable street frontage. Surrounding a park with parking has no appeal to me at all. This "oasis" will only segregate the park from the rest of the community.

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