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Guest Column - January 2005

Sustainable Parks

Park Planning and Design

By Andrew R. Lavallee, ASLA, RLA, CSI


A new initiative is afoot in New York City to create financially sustainable public parks for the benefit of future generations. Recently, the idea of such a park has been fully embraced with the creation of Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City. Integral to this initiative is the concept of incorporating Integrated Maintenance Planning or IMP into the planning and design process.

Brooklyn Bridge Park concept plan

The Brooklyn Bridge Park plan entails a mixed-use park that reclaims a 1.3-mile portion of Brooklyn's industrial waterfront along the East River. The park will serve to alleviate the dense urban crowding within a neighborhood community that is sorely lacking in available recreational open space. The park plan currently includes 79 acres of waterfront property including 20 acres of pier structures over the East River. The park program includes active and passive recreation areas, performance areas, garden spaces, streetscape improvements, environmental restoration areas, and a variety of community, cultural and educational facilities.

A significant part of the park owner/agency mandate is that it be financially self-sustaining. To this end, the plan also includes commercial development sites intended to generate the revenues required for the maintenance and on-going operations of the park.

IMP and the design process

Because of the mandate that the park be self-sustaining, maintenance and operations costs needed to be established clearly prior to construction. The IMP approach is ideal for this because maintenance planning begins early in the design process. The goal of IMP is to evaluate the cost of maintenance and operations of a proposed park in order to understand the implications of programming decisions, physical layout, construction assemblies and finish materials. Once a maintenance and operations budget has been developed, these costs can be broken down on a square-foot basis to allow designers to adjust the overall layout of the park or park program within meaningful cost parameters. The earlier in the process the IMP is developed, the more easily the design can be adapted to anticipated budget requirements. In the case of Brooklyn Bridge Park, IMP has been used to assist in determining how much revenue-generating development programming will be required to economically sustain the park over the long term.

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