After a report last week that Chicago was lacking in open space compared to other major American cities, architecture critic Blair Kamin proposes ten ways that Chicago could help rectify the problem:
The open space shortage is pervasive, with 32 of 77 community areas, home to half of Chicago’s 2.7 million people, failing to meet the city’s own modest requirement of two acres of open space for every 1,000 residents. And the stakes associated with relieving it are huge. Parks can help the city’s neighborhoods attract and retain residents, promote public health, boost real estate values and draw together people from different walks of life…
Although Emanuel has thrown his support behind a grab bag of open space initiatives, such as boathouses on the Chicago River and a new park in an unused area of Rosehill Cemetery, he has yet to produce the visionary plan he promised in his transition report.
In the absence of such a vision, here are 10 ideas that show what architects and the architects of public policy can do to relieve Chicago’s chronic open space shortage.
There are some interesting ideas here and many sounds relatively simply to institute.
When I saw the earlier story, I had a thought: should people have a right to public space? In the suburbs, perhaps this doesn’t matter as much as the common American goal is to purchase your own land. But in the city, where the population density increases and residents expect to be outside of their dwelling, should people have a guaranteed amount of public space? Do people have a human right to parks, to open land?
This question also is pertinent in light of the Occupy Wall Street protestors in Zuccotti Park in New York City. This is a weird sort of public space: it is privately owned but the owners have an agreement with the city to operate it as public space. This sort of arrangement is spreading to other cities: San Francisco has a number “privately owned public spaces” (POPOS) that few residents or tourists would ever know are actually privately owned. This might be helpful in that cities don’t have to do all the maintenance for these spaces but what happens when the private owners don’t like what is taking place on supposedly public property?