Money Grows on Trees
The Value of an Urban Park
Ask people to value an urban park and they might talk about the benefits of recreation or how green spaces can keep city air cleaner and temperatures cooler in summers. Or they might talk about social capital and how parks offer gathering places for conversation and celebrations. But Chicago's new downtown park, Millennium Park, is adding another value: that of cold, hard cash.
Millennium Park opened in 2004 with two big strikes against it. It was four years late. (It was supposed to have opened in the millennium year.) And it was embarrassingly expensive. Originally budgeted at $150 million, the park's final cost was $475 million. But when people laid eyes on this 25-acre jewel of a park, which is part green space and part art space, none of that mattered. Since opening day, crowds have been drawn to its stunning sculptures and playful architecture.
And, it turns out, so are real estate developers. A study this year by Chicago's planning department estimated that Millennium Park would create $1.4 billion in residential development in the next decade. How? Because the park has created a huge demand for apartments and condos nearby. "Millennium Park has become a status symbol, a focal point, a magnet for the surrounding neighborhood, making properties around the park extremely desirable," a real estate analyst told the Chicago Tribune.
Why not think of the money we have recently "found" for the development of Payne Park, as an investment? Let's invest in green space. Find ways to make this a signature green space in Sarasota. The returns should be terrific.
We do not need to change the land use or the zoning around Payne Park to increase value to the city. What we need to do is make Payne Park a very special place.