District Council Parks Engagement Grants

Research shows that parks and open spaces are essential ingredients in resilient, healthy, and equitable communities—they’re more than just play alone. Critical to the public realm, parks enhance community resilience and make people healthier and happier. They can also spur economic development. Parks have been shown to activate streets, attract residents, and bolster tourism. Community connectors, parks bring us together with our neighbors and provide a space to celebrate arts, our environment, and culture.

To harness the power of parks and open spaces, ULI has partnered with The Trust for Public Land and the National Recreation and Park Association on the 10 Minute Walk. This national campaign works to ensure that everyone in urban America lives within a ten-minute walk to a high-quality park. As part of this effort, ULI is offering grants of up to $5,000 to District Councils for activities that advance local parks and open spaces and build member commitment to parks. The goal of these grants is to leverage the passion and engagement of ULI members at the local level to build support for sustained investment in excellent parks and open spaces.

Grants for Technical Assistance

ULI Colorado held two charrettes, in September and October 2019, in partnership with the High Line Canal Conservancy, focused primarily on access to parks and open space. The High Line Canal is a 71-mile waterway and greenway that has a trail system running along over 66 miles. Through these charrettes, ULI Colorado engaged ULI members in developing replicable models for engaging communities along the Canal to learn more about what amenities/park-related infrastructure they would like to see and use, and how to improve access to and use of this regional green space and trail system.

ULI Michigan’s Larson Center for Leadership undertakes a large technical assistance project as a part of their program of work each year. For 2019, program participants worked with the City of Lansing and Delta Dental to provide feedback on how to maximize their riverfront as a world-class public space, gathering place, and vibrant community center. The TAP visit occurred on July 17-18, 2019, and final recommendations will be made to the sponsors on October 17, 2019. A final report will be available in January of 2020.

ULI Boston/New England, as part of the District Council’s Living With Heat initiative, convened a charrette in June 2019 to develop strategies to mitigate urban heat island effect. Members generated best practices to help landowners, developers, designers, and public officials to protect projects, investments, and communities from risks associated with urban heat island effect and climate change broadly. This project utilized the Climate-Smart Cities decision-support mapping tool, created through a collaboration between the District Council and The Trust for Public Land.

ULI Atlanta is partnering with the City of Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation and Atlanta Public Schools on a pilot program, kicking off in 2019, to improve schoolyards and make them accessible to the public via transportation improvements. ULI Atlanta will engage its Technical Advisory Panels Committee and invite key ULI members with appropriate planning and transportation expertise to participate in a workshop focused on pedestrian and bicycle access improvements within the 10-minute walksheds of schoolyards. Read more here.

ULI Hawaii is using funds to support research and community engagement to better understand the underutilization of Honolulu’s historic McCoy Pavilion in Ala Moana Park. ULI Hawaii will also convene stakeholders around park re-envisioning, based on their findings. Constructed in the 1930s, then president Franklin Delano Roosevelt dubbed Ala Moana “The People’s Park.” The facilities, which include a sports pavilion, designed by one of the most prominent architects in Hawaii at the time, as well as banyan courts, ponds, and a bowling green, fell into disuse in the 1990s. With the construction of the light rail proximate to the park, and new residential construction, 4,000 additional households are expected—creating a new demand for parks and an opportunity to re-imagine an existing park space.

ULI Sacramento staff and members assisted with and executed the Sacramento Advisory Services Panel in September 2018. The national panel focused on how parks and opens spaces and connections can be included in upcoming development strategies around two transit stations in South Sacramento, specifically the Florin and Meadowview stations. Read more about this panel here

Grants for Programs or Events

ULI Austin is focusing on providing communication and education to local members, regarding implementation activities from a recent Advisory Services Panel, which focused on a 10-mile urban trail in the heart of downtown. A breakfast program and other communications activities planned for 2020 will help educate members and partners on a future MOU for trail maintenance and operations between the Austin Parks and Recreation Department and The Trail Foundation, dispelling myths and helping the community understand the benefits.

ULI Nevada hosted a panel discussion on October 15, 2019, on connections between extreme heat and the built environment in Nevada and possible solutions. The panel will feature Liz Foster, the author of ULI’s report Scorched: Extreme Heat and Real Estate, who will share high level findings from national research.

ULI Washington partnered with local nonprofit Greater Greater Washington to host a “key findings” presentation and panel discussion on August 8, 2019, with local resilience thought leaders based on the 2019 ULI report Scorched: Extreme Heat and Real Estate. The panel was moderated by D.C.’s Chief Resilience Officer, with speakers from the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment, Urban Sustainability Directors Network, and JBG Smith. This event was also the first public event introducing D.C.’s newly published Resilience Strategy. The conversation focused on the connections between extreme heat, the built environment, and resilience in D.C.  More details can be found here and here.

ULI Colorado hosted a half-day educational program on July 18, 2019 at the Children’s Museum of Denver and adjacent Joy Park on the South Platte River opposite downtown. “How Open Space is Shaping the Future of Real Estate,” featuring keynote speaker James Lima, educated ULI Colorado members and guests on the health and
business benefits of integrating open space into our urban environments and real estate projects. Read more about this program here.

ULI Idaho hosted a two-hour program on June 26, 2019 focused on the value of open space, with keynote speaker Ed McMahon, senior resident fellow at ULI. The program focused on Indian Creek Plaza in the city of Caldwell, a project that opened a previously covered creek and created pathways to connect the plaza to nearby downtown businesses and amenities. ULI Idaho also organized smaller meetings with McMahon and ULI Idaho members and partners to discuss the value of parks and open space.

ULI Atlanta covered the registration for outstanding Young Leaders and members in targeted Southeastern geographies for its Chattanooga Crossroads event in Chattanooga, Tennessee in April 2019. The program focused on a portion of the city’s comprehensive plan which showcases the benefits of activating parks and open spaces. Participants learned the how the long-range plans and the investments in the public realm have impacted the character, competitiveness, and development opportunities in downtown Chattanooga. The program featured presentations from Mayor Andy Berke, Chattanooga Design Studio, River City Company, and others. Read more here.

ULI Virginia hosted its first annual conference, Creating and Sustaining Happiness in Virginia Communities, on March 27, 2019. The event featured Atlanta Beltline co-founder Ryan Gravel, author Peter Kageyama (For the Love of Cities), and researcher June Williamson (Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs). Nearly 200 people attended.

ULI Houston organized a program around The Business Case for Open Space at the District Council’s yearly Urban Marketplace event, Houston’s largest single-day event focused on topics and issues impacting all parties involved in urban real estate development, on March 27, 2019. Speakers included Mary Lawler, Executive Director, Avenue; Sheila Condon, Principal/Owner, Clark/Condon; David Ott, Development Partner, The Hannover Company, and Travis Younkin, Executive Director, Upper Kirby Redevelopment Authority.ULI Houston also organized an interactive 10-Minute Walk booth, staffed by Young Leaders, that will allow attendees to locate parks and understand where park deficits occur in their community, through maps developed by The Trust for Public Land.

ULI Minnesota convened residents and stakeholders around the land bridge vision, helping to sustain momentum from a March 2018 parks and open spaces Advisory Services Panel. On September 28, 2018, partners heard from Dr. Assata Richards of Sankofa Research Institute and learned how residents in Houston’s predominantly African-American Third Ward worked with city partners to leverage a $33.6 million public investment in Emancipation Park, a 10-acre recreational space that has served black families since the late 1800s, for community benefit. Through this event, ULI Minnesota facilitated a community-focused, intimate conversation about ReConnect Rondo’s next step in facilitating effective community engagement around not just the Land Bridge but a broad array of community development needs.

ULI Washington supported the Montgomery County Parks speakers series between July 2018 and June 2019, titled Inclusion, Diversity, and Social Equity, and a local ULI Member workshop in 2019. Speakers in the series included: Sheema Hai, a consultant who offers training sessions at both the state and national level on topics related to diversity and cultural sensitivity; Albert Arevalo, program coordinator for Latino Outdoors; Mikah Meyer, who uses social media to document his experience visiting all U.S. National Parks and promote his role as openly gay male; Sangita Chari, program manager, National Park Service Office of Relevancy, Diversity and Inclusion; and Ed McMahon, ULI Senior Fellow.

ULI San Diego hosted a member breakfast and workshop that focused on how parks can be an integral piece of economic development in July 2018. The Case for Open Public Space – Parks as Economic Drivers to Development breakfast featured presentations from Todd Galarneau, Executive Vice President/Principal Planning and Land Development, Meridian Development; Nathan Elliott, Principal at OJB Landscape Architecture; and Mike Hansen, Director of the Planning Department at the City of San Diego, who shared lessons on how developers, designers and park experts can make parks and green spaces more successful, livable, and financially sustainable.

ULI Chicago partnered with the National Recreation and Park Association to host a 10-Minute Walk training for 10-Minute Walk grantees in May 2018. ULI Chicago organized a presentation by Kathy Dickhut, Deputy Commissioner of Planning, who highlighted the impact of the 606 trail on housing affordability in the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as lessons learned by the City in order to minimize displacement associated with park or trail investments. ULI Chicago also partnered with Territory NFP to provide mentorship between ULI members and underserved high-school students in Chicago, interested in park and public realm design.

ULI North Texas partnered with The Trust for Public Land, Dallas on a 10 Minute Walk booth at EarthX, the nation’s largest Earth Day celebration in Dallas, Texas in April 2018. Young Leaders from ULI North Texas designed and organized a 10-Minute Walk interactive display, engaging more than 400 community members. Young Leaders spoke with participants about park access in the region, city priorities, and the 10 Minute Walk campaign and shared seed papers as gifts for all participants.

For More Information

For more information visit DC Resources, or email parks@uli.org

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