Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pocket parks

Some time ago, when I mentioned proposals for pocket park(s) in the MedQuarter district, a friend pointed me to information about Paley Park in New York City, an early prototype completed in 1967. Having a particular idea of pocket parks in my head, I was surprised at the variety.

According to the article at the University of Washington's encyclopedic "Open Space Seattle 2100" site the definition of pocket park is pretty broad: urban open space at the very small scale... usually only a few house lots in size or smaller. They can be generalist, "scaled-down city parks," but more often specialize in a few functions. Article author Alison Blake lists "small event space, play areas for children, spaces for relaxing or meeting friends, taking lunch breaks, etc." They work best when they're tied into a neighborhood, and when people aren't fighting over which function takes precedence.

Other information on pocket parks:

Initiative to create pocket parks can be taken by community activists, municipal governments or public-private partnerships. Philadelphia's pocket parks were created by the city after buying lots at sheriff's sales. Paley Park in New York City was created by the foundation of former CBS president William S. Paley. Anderson Park in Cedar Rapids was in existence before, but was developed and improved about 15 years ago thanks to grass-roots efforts by people in the surrounding neighborhood.

When I think of "pocket park," I think of a small neighborhood park with a play area. This is Monroe Park in Cedar Rapids, located on 30th St SE.

It is adjacent to Monroe School, which was recently closed. It's very shady, which is a plus; a potential criticism is the playground is hard to see from the street.

This is Tomahawk Park, near where we used to live:

Anderson Park, mentioned above:

Northview Park:

There are other kinds of pocket parks. Central Park on the northeast side was created on the site of a Chinese takeout place that closed and then burned. (There were rumors about that fire.) It has some trees and benches.
There is a play area nearby, at the former Polk School.

Huston Park has a rose garden, which is not currently in bloom:

This parklet is across the river from Czech Village, near the New Bo district;

I think it's called Masaryk Park, after the first President of Czechoslovakia, but didn't see signage. Occasionally I'll see people eating their lunches there.

And what of Krebs Park? [Picture coming] It's necessitated, really, by a weirdly-shaped intersection that leaves a spot of ground too small to build on. It's bounded by busy streets, and I've never seen anyone there.

I was struck at the MedQuarter District open house that the picture of the pocket park showed only adults chatting on pavement. That type of pocket park might be appropriate to a commercial sector where you only expect adults to congregate, sort of like the Healing Garden by St. Luke's Hospital:
(A young couple was seated at the far end of the garden when I took this picture, but I didn't know if they wanted to be blog stars.)

My hope for the MedQuarter is that it will be integrated into a larger urban zone at the core of Cedar Rapids. And that will require playground equipment. But even if the only reason to go to the MedQuarter is to seek medical care or to visit someone in the hospital--if things are going this direction, please don't tell me yet--youngsters still need some place to run around, right?


  1. Here in Madison, I hear the term pocket park used to describe the little areas of open lakeshore at the end of streets, though officially those are called "trafficway" parks.

  2. "Pocket parks" is quite the plastic concept. So, as in the Cedar Rapids MedQuarter proposal, one needs more definition to know what's under consideration.


Do bicycle boulevards need a purpose?

I was surprised last weekend to find the place where we were staying was on a bicycle boulevard. A bicycle boulevard is "a street ...