Open Voices Blog

News and conversations about the growing evidence of the healing power of nature and green development in cities

Open Voices News Roundup: February 12

02/12/15 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

A Natural Match: Drexel Research Team Connects Urban Design to Public Health

“As inner-city school kids climb and swing at a state-of-the-art playground with a rain garden and trees, will their surroundings make a difference in their health and social well-being? At urban community gardens nearby, will the fresh produce and a greener view help local residents breathe easier? Such questions, connecting urban design and natural systems with public health, are the focus of a new convergence of research and community engagement efforts at Drexel. A new team of faculty from the School of Public Health and Westphal College of Media Arts & Design is bringing together research on these interdisciplinary questions within community-based projects in West Philadelphia—some of which are already underway, and some that have yet to begin.”

First Ladies support new Healing Garden at Children’s National

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Open Voices News Roundup: February 5

02/05/15 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

How Trees Can Make City People Happier (and Vice Versa)

“There’s plenty of evidence that hints of nature help us humans live in the urban spaces we’ve built. About five years ago, one major study showed that, across the world, living in cities is associated with higher levels of depression and other mental health problems; a rash of studies since have shown that people feel like green spaces — parks and community gardens, usually — help them deal with the stresses of urban life. Mark Taylor, a public health researcher at the University of Trnava in Slovakia, wondered, though, if there might be a way to establish that connection between nature and mental health without relying on people’s own accounts of their well-being. “There’s been a fair bit of research that looks at different ways in which people say they feel some kind of benefit of being around natural spaces,” he says. “But nearly all of that was subjective.” You can ask people if they feel better, he says, and plenty might say they do. But how to know for sure?”

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Open Voices News Roundup: January 29

01/29/15 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

How Much Public Space Does a City Need?

“How much of Manhattan is dedicated to public space? For starters, there’s Central Park, but the island’s oasis is only 1.3 square miles, 5.6 percent of the borough’s land area. You might remember those swaths of green way uptown, like Highbridge Park and Inwood Hill Park (the only natural forest left in Manhattan), but together they’re just another one-half square mile, accounting for a mere 2.1 percent. Add in all the well-worn parks from Marcus Garvey to Bryant, the slivers of open space along the rivers, privately-owned public spaces like Occupy’s Zuccotti Park, newfangled innovations like the High Line, and Janette Sadik-Khan’s pedestrian plazas. Maybe 15 percent at best? Guess again. When we think about public space, we picture parks and greenways, but overlook the largest single public space asset in any city’s rolls: streets. Include the pavement New Yorkers traverse every day in your public space calculation and the city’s most prosperous borough hits the magic proportion: 49 percent.”

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Open Voices News Roundup: January 22

01/22/15 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

Big Park, Great City?

“You don’t have to look very far these days to see that we are in the midst of an urban park renaissance. Examples from all over the country are proving that parks can raise city profiles, stimulate development, increase property values, attract tourists and, most importantly, improve the quality of life for urban dwellers. Because of this, well-designed open space has become a must-have for cities striving to be considered world class. Big cities attract most of the attention for this, but medium-sized ones such as BirminghamSanta Fe, and Tulsa are making statements with new parks, as well. Now, thanks to a pending $52 million land deal, Raleigh, North Carolina may soon be added to this list. For it to succeed, however, the city needs to prove it has grown up and is ready to be more urban. It certainly has the potential to be a shining example of how to build a 21st century urban park, but it could just as easily become a cautionary tale.”

Walking is Going Places

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Open Voices News Roundup: January 8

01/08/15 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

The Greening of a Suburban Downtown

“If planners for Bethesda, Maryland fully realize a conceptual vision now being offered to community leaders and the public, the once-quiet but now-bustling suburb’s downtown could become a nationally relevant example of urban sustainability. While the thinking is in its infancy, the Montgomery County Planning Department—under Maryland law, the county has legal authority—is considering a comprehensive green overhaul of Bethesda’s downtown plan, currently being updated by for the first time in twenty years. Particularly significant, in my opinion, would be two to three neighborhood-scaled “ecodistricts” within the downtown that would lead the way with showcase practices to accelerate and intensify environmental performance. The Department is being exceptionally cautious in stressing that for the moment its ideas are only conceptual and preliminary in nature, and will be subject to extensive review and refinement, but they point in the right direction.”

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Open Voices News Roundup: December 24

12/24/14 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

Land Trust Secures Vacant Lots for Urban Agriculture, Recreation in LA’s Underserved Neighborhoods

“Founded in 2002, the LA Neighborhood Land Trust is a nonprofit organization that identifies underutilized space in a 475-square miles area in and around Los Angeles, and transforms it into green space for urban agriculture and community recreation projects. Real estate costs are high in Los Angeles, so the work of the Trust moves forward one small lot at a time…Since its inception, the Trust has fostered the development of 18 inner-city urban agriculture projects, with 11 projects in development. A recent projects include a food forest and community garden combination with child-centered programming in the unincorporated area of West Athens. The Trust hopes to build ten new urban green spaces in 2015.”

As Evidence Mounts, Drumbeat for Walkable Streets Grows

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Open Voices News Roundup: December 18

12/18/14 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

A Playful Plaza: Bringing Imagination and New Life to Downtown Providence

“Every Thursday in the summer, at about 9am, the Downtown Providence Park Conservancy (DPPC) crew gathers and prepares for the long day ahead—nine non-stop hours of family programming in Burnside Park. On one edge of the park, The O’Crepe food truck is already open for business as Jennifer Smith and her team of interns and volunteers unlock the doors of the Imagination Center and start moving colorful equipment out into the park. Folding tables, stools, and art supplies head to one area for Art in the Park, as jumbo beanbags, colorful benches, and a sound system head to another for Storytime. Book carts filled with the work of local authors and illustrators roll out onto the Imagination Center deck to create an outdoor reading room.’”

The 10 Most Livable Global Cities For Balancing Work And Play

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Open Voices News Roundup: December 11

12/11/14 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

Walkability Is Good for You

“Ever since Jane Jacobs’ classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, urbanists have extolled the ideal of the dense, mixed-used, walkable neighborhood, contrasting it with the dull and deadly cul-de-sacs of car-oriented suburbs. If walkability has long been an “ideal,” a recent slew of studies provide increasingly compelling evidence of the positive effects of walkable neighborhoods on everything from housing values to crime and health, to creativity and more democratic cities. A key research advance has been the development of the Walk Score metric (we have written about it here before), which provides a baseline measure for walkable communities. Walk Score uses data from Google, OpenStreetMap and the U.S. Census to assign any address a walkability ranking from zero to 100 based on a its pedestrian friendliness and distance to amenities such as grocery stores, restaurants, public transit, and the like.’”

New San Diego Park Reconnects City and Waterfront

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Open Voices News Roundup: December 4

12/04/14 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

‘Food Innovation District’ Plan Could Bring Indoor Market to Downtown Holland

“Holland’s ‘Western Gateway’ could become a center of food innovation under a new plan released by the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan State University’s School of Planning, Design and Construction. The collaborative plan calls for an indoor market to supplement the popular existing Holland Farmers Market, community gardens and an incubator for new food businesses. It could become a ‘corridor for housing, recreation and commerce,’ according to the report. ‘This is such an important piece of our downtown,’ said Dana Kollewehr, downtown manager for the city of Holland. ‘Over the years, we looked at a variety of ways to connect these areas of the city, and this PlacePlan brings those ideas together and gives us focus and viable options about how to increase walkability in this part of downtown. … We’re hopeful that we can start to see some of these projects pop up in the next year to year in a half, so that’s very exciting for our community and residents.’”

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Open Voices News Roundup: November 26

11/26/14 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

Walkability, Quality Public Spaces Can Be Created in Communities of Any Size

“Communities of any size can create celebrated public spaces. I know it’s true because I’ve seen it first hand – this month I had the pleasure of participating in the recent Smart Growth Tour put on by the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute. During this tour, I got to explore some of Colorado’s Front Range communities that have made major investments to become more walkable and livable…Walkability isn’t a rural versus urban issue – wherever vehicle speeds are high, wherever we don’t see other people walking, wherever the buildings all look the same – there is a starkness that detracts from the community. This can happen anywhere.  And no matter how small your community, you can afford to address the problem. In fact, you can’t afford not to.”

From Vacant Lot to Garden Spot: LA-Based Nonprofit Greens Up Blighted Land

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    We are a private nonprofit that supports, informs, and inspires the creation of publicly accessible urban green spaces. We believe that every city resident needs nearby green space to provide opportunities for mindfulness, respite, and renewal. The Foundation has issued its final grants to build five Open Spaces Sacred Places and research the impacts on a variety of users with the hope that the powerful connection between nature, spirit and human wellbeing will be scientifically proven.

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