Parks Catalyze Economic Growth

March 7, 2017 | Posted in: Business, Economics, Real Estate

The success of many global cities can be traced directly to the quality of their public spaces and parks.  Urban parks are among the most noteworthy and visited attractions of any major city— think Central Park in New York City, Millennium Park in Chicago or Hyde Park in London—and serve important social, public-health and environmental functions for their urban populations. Consider these examples:

  1. Urban parks tend to decrease crime.  A prime example of the positive impact of urban park can be found in Fort Myers, Florida which credits a 28% drop in juvenile arrests to a program of recreation center construction in low-income communities. Give people something to do and they are less likely to find trouble as a result of boredom.
  2. Parks also offer locations for people of all ages from children to adults to play and engender a sense of community and social cohesion. Look at any soccer, baseball or football field in any city on any weekend across America and the bonds of community are self-evident.
  3. Access to parks encourages people to exercise more frequently.  According to a recent CDC study, creation of or enhanced access to places for physical activity led to a 25.6 percent increase in the percentage of people exercising three or more days per week. [Citation 33]
  4. Exposure to green space may also decrease the frequency of health complaints among nearby residents.  In a 2001 study conducted by Dutch environmental psychologists/statisticians, “a ten percent increase in nearby green space was found to decrease a person’s health complaints in an amount equivalent to a five-year reduction in that person’s age.” [Citation 41]
  5. Urban parks can also reduce the negative effect of pollution on its city’s urban climate and create a cooling effect that offsets heating generated by the concrete and glass often seen in dense urban architecture.  Urban parks also reduce the amount of stormwater that urban sewage systems have to handle by absorbing water drainage, intercepting rainfall, and “slowing the rate at which it reaches storm water facilities.”
  6. Real estate development projects centered on urban parks often benefit their cities economically. New York City’s “High Line” park revitalization, which retrofitted a decrepit raised rail line with an aesthetically-pleasing, outdoor green space, has contributed an extra $900 million to the city’s tax revenue since opening and has generated $2 billion in “new economic activity” to its adjacent Chelsea neighborhood. Locally,  Dallas has recently implemented a similar approach through the construction of Klyde Warren Park, which has raised the property values of nearby vacant lots by 180% since its opening and increased demand for all neighboring establishments.

A New Dallas Midtown Park is on the Horizon

The positive impact of a park can be either amplified or diminished by its location and its accessibility.  The most successful parks experience a high level of traffic, which can only be afforded by dense, urban environments.  By being located in a high-density, mixed-use development, the highly anticipated Dallas Midtown Park can benefit the city at a magnitude similar to or greater than that of Klyde Warren Park. 

Despite being four times as large as Klyde Warren (20 acres compared to 5 acres), the Dallas Midtown Park will cost less than Klyde Warren Park on a per acre basis. The Dallas Midtown Park Foundation’s projected funding is only 18% of that expended on Klyde Warren Park, making this an incredible deal for the city.  As the 9th largest city in the United States and the fastest-growing city/metropolitan area in the country, Dallas desperately needs a park whose size, function and accessibility can match its stature as a national and global city.  Dallas Midtown Park’s 20 acre size would match Chicago’s 24.5 Millennium Park in size and would spur additional urban development and economic growth within Dallas.

As urban development continues to spread north into Dallas’ northern suburbs, urban parks are invaluable tools for spurring economic growth throughout the metroplex.  Although Dallas has revitalized its downtown through the success of Klyde Warren Park, the city faces an even more significant–and affordable– opportunity to enrich the city’s public space and augment its already-robust economic growth by funding the Dallas Midtown Park Foundation’s endeavor to create a centerpiece for the $22 billion Dallas Midtown urban district.

Scott N. Beck, a Dallas Texas Greenhill alumni, received a Masters of Accounting from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin where he completed his B.B.A. Mr. Beck is a member of the Board of Directors of United Texas Bank and is President of Beck Ventures.

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