Economic Development

Disruption Index: Privately Run Public Spaces

Credit: Danni Sinisi

Over the next two weeks, Next City will unroll short profiles of 77 people, places and ideas that have changed cities this year. Together, they make up our 2012 Disruption Index. Forefront subscribers can download the Index in full as a PDF, complete with beautiful designs and graphics by Danni Sinisi. Readers who make a $75 donation to Next City will have a full-color printed copy of the Index mailed to them.

Because public parks are public, they’re subject to the sorts of limited funding and management issues that public agencies have been struggling through in recent years. That means a potential for neglect and poor maintenance. But if you sprinkle a little private sector into the public park equation, many of the problems can fade away.

A handful of new urban parks that have opened over the last year show how private management and maintenance of space — but not actual private ownership — can vastly improve the level of service parks can provide to communities. In Philadelphia, the new Sister Cities Park is a 1.75-acre park space downtown that’s managed and maintained by the Center City District, a community development corporation that also manages a handful of other park spaces in the Center City neighborhood. In Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation led a $48 million makeover of Washington Park, a key part of the non-profit developer’s efforts to revitalize the neighborhood. And in New York, the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge Park was planned, built and is now maintained by the non-profit Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, which provides both attention to the park and the sort of programming that keeps it active.

Nate Berg is a writer and journalist covering cities, architecture and urban planning. Nate’s work has been published in a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times, NPR, Wired, Metropolis, Fast Company, Dwell, Architect, the Christian Science Monitor, LA Weekly and many others. He is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities and was previously an assistant editor at Planetizen.

Tags: philadelphia, economic development, 2012 disruption index, citydisruptors, brooklyn, parks, cincinnati, privately owned public spaces, center city district, brooklyn bridge park