An extensive analysis of New York City’s parks shows that strategic investment in revitalizing parks yields significant economic returns to the city, investors and neighboring communities. While not all park investments have generated economic returns, strategic planning, effective maintenance and community involvement can lead to successful park investments that create economic revitalization. One success case provided in this study is Bryant Park, which, after a complete overhaul in the 1980s, reopened and is now a major draw for both tourists and local residents, seeing 20,000 visitors each day. Between 1990-2002, asking rents for commercial office space near the park increased between 115% and 225% as compared to increases ranging from 41% to 73% in the surrounding submarkets.
City wide, across different demographic areas, parks have created economic returns. There are cases where city parks increased the value of nearby commercial real estate by up to 225% and residential real estate by up to 150%. City parks have caused turnover rates to drop to less than 1%. Park improvements have been paid for by returns from increased park use and concessions.
One case study provided is Bryant Park. Opened as a public space in the 1880s, it has seen high and low points, but by the 1960s its decline was severe and in the 1970s it was known for crime and drugs. An additional assessment on adjacent properties and public and private funds was used for a decade long work to completely overhaul the park. In 1991, a new Bryant park opened, with improved maintenance and security, restored sculptures, and new concessions, facilities and events.
Approximately 20,000 people visit it each day. Moveable chairs attract nearby workers on lunch breaks, and local businesses view the park as an employee amenity and use the park for outside lunch meetings. The park is a tourist draw and residents come by the thousands for outdoor movie screenings, free concerts, a free outdoor library and the chance to enjoy fresh air in the center of Midtown.
Financially, the city and the local business owners made a sound investment. The entire neighborhood has become more desirable. Between 1990-2002, asking rents for commercial office space near Bryant Park increased between 115% and 225% as compared to increases ranging from 41% to 73% in the surrounding submarkets.