2018 National Planning Conference

Creation of Open Space in Downtowns

Saturday, April 21, 2018 from 2:45 p.m. - 4 p.m. CDT

Location: R02

CM | 1.25

Cost: Included in Registration

Activity Type: Educational Sessions

Activity ID: NPC188058


  • Strategies to engage the public, business community, and other stakeholders in creating new open space(s) in downtowns and urban areas
  • Successes and pitfalls from case examples of approaches to open-space acquisition
  • How planning guides development of urban-pocket parks, plazas, and informal spaces


Adequate open space in urban areas, neighborhoods, and downtowns has long be recognized by the planning community as an essential part of the creation of place. Open spaces, plazas, and landscaped areas create locations for gathering, community building, and recreation. When cities are built out, the creation of these spaces becomes far more difficult. The approaches to obtaining this open space can be wildly different: incentive-based zoning, dedication through development, and acquisition are just three that can be taken. These three very different approaches will be discussed. The City of Bellevue, Washington, (pop 140,000) recently placed an incentive-based zoning scheme in place to require horizontal open spaces with new development; the City of Westminster, Colorado, (pop 110,000) set aside 20 percent of the land in its new downtown as permanent park and open space; and the City of Santa Monica, California, (pop 93,000) identified specific locations on underdeveloped lots for four small spaces in the downtown area, with incentives for developers of those sites to bring these public open spaces into being. The pros and cons of each approach will be discussed in an entertaining and informative fashion.

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Session Speakers

Michael A. Cummins, AICP
City of Bellevue
Bellevue, WA

Neal I. Payton
Torti Gallas + Partners
Los Angeles, CA

Sarah Nurmela, AICP
City of Westminster
Westminster, CO

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