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Downtown parks: Outdoor living spaces in the urban environment

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The back yard of a single-family residence in suburbia is often considered an extension of the home. In a high-density urban environment, however, among the high-rise condominium and apartment complexes, residents have no private yard to call their own. Frankly, not having a yard to maintain often is one of the reasons people choose to live downtown. Where can downtown dwellers go to escape the built environment and wiggle their toes in a manicured lawn? These folks find respite in our local parks and open spaces.

Not merely a collection of outdoor spaces for engaging in recreational opportunities, parks are also outdoor living spaces that help enrich the quality of urban life. As the private backyard is to the suburban home, public open spaces serve as extensions of the urban home -- shared by many. Urban dwellers visit parks and engage in activities for the same reasons people in the suburbs retreat to outdoor spaces connected to their homes: to play, exercise, read, enjoy music, socialize, eat and rest.

Parks also can be gathering spaces where communities come together to interact, play a game of chess or just people-watch. In these public spaces, people can listen to a concert, view and enjoy nature, watch a sporting event, play or engage with other people.

What’s planned?

Redecorating -- Sometimes it is necessary to rearrange the furniture to “freshen up” the look or help a room function better. In the coming months, Centre City Development Corp. (CCDC) will be looking into “redecorating” Children’s Park, Gaslamp Square Park and Horton Plaza Park to see how these outdoor living spaces can better serve downtown residents, workers and visitors for the future.

Room additions -- CCDC will be planning to expand local outdoor living spaces through development of a downtown parks implementation master plan. The 2006 Downtown Community Plan calls for adding 52 new acres of parks and open space. It also guides the way to create a system that allows every resident to live within a five- to 10-minute walk of a park. The planned open space system highlights linkages between residential areas, parks and neighborhood centers, and enhanced connections between Balboa Park and the waterfront. CCDC is also currently developing an interim leash-free dog park in East Village to begin to meet the needs of our growing downtown dog population. Determining effective long-term maintenance solutions for all future parks will also be an important element of the downtown parks implementation plan.

Stay informed about park and open space topics and future public outreach opportunities. Subscribe to CCDC’s e-mail notification system by visiting ccdc.com and signing up today.

Submitted by Mark Caro for Centre City Development Corp. This article first appeared in CCDC’s 2010 Downtown Today magazine.

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