MDB Insight Blog


The Power of Public Spaces in Your Community

New York-based urban planner Amanda Burden gave an impactful TED Talk about the power of public spaces.

Burden advocated for public spaces and explained how they needed champions, planners and caretakers, because they are one of the big reasons that people choose to live in a particular city.

3 Ways to Reconcile Prosperity with Livable Public Spaces

Public spaces need advocates in the community, because often the goals of providing livable spaces for residents are at odds with commercial interests. There are three ways that you can help to reconcile prosperity with the need for beautiful public spaces.

  1. Build Public Spaces in Your Communities First
  2. Never Stop Advocating for Public Spaces
  3. Listen to What Your Community Wants and Needs

Most often, cities are developed first and public spaces are added afterwards. The result is that there are many barren, concrete plazas around large buildings, which feel less inviting than green spaces or parks. Instead, Burden suggests public spaces be built first to entice development around them.

An example of this approach is Battery Park in New York City, where Burden was a key planner of the esplanade that was built along the waterfront on a small portion of the available land. The remainder of the space was open for development to complement the beautiful park that people loved to frequent. In this case, the public space that made the area desirable for residents attracted the development to drive the city‘s prosperity.

The pressure can be tremendous to exchange public spaces for other more profitable aspects of a community. Public spaces need champions, as Burden says, who will battle every day for the lively, green, grounded spaces that people grow to love.

Some public spaces will be a continuous battle, even after they are funded and built, but it’s important to always put yourself into the shoes of your citizens and consider what they desire for the landscape of their community. A public park with beautiful flowers and places to sit and enjoy the peace within a bustling city is the perfect respite for busy residents.

You must be able to tap into what your community truly wants. By listening intently to your citizens you will be able to plan for the public spaces they desire. Burden says there are many ways that you can listen to your citizens, including:

  • Reading the news and editorials about city planning
  • Scheduling public hearings to ask for citizens’ feedback
  • Gathering letters, emails and phone calls that provide insight into public opinion
  • Walking through the neighbourhoods yourself to get a sense of the community
  • Conducting scientific market research with platforms like Citizen Satisfaction IQTM that help you to survey a representative cross-section of your community

How to Keep Citizens in Love with Their Community

Improving municipal services, including the championing and maintenance of beautiful public spaces, is essential to keep citizens in love with their community. Public spaces inject personality into a community and provide tiny sanctuaries that are sought out by many.

Public spaces will always be challenged by progress and prosperity, but there is a balance to be struck between the two sides in order to keep communities livable.

What Other Challenges Will Your Community Face?

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