They can be located in downtown Lebanon, adjacent to schools or within neighborhoods and can be linear greenways, small pocket parks or large neighborhood parks. Whatever their constitution, the best parks are designed for multi-use versatility.
Successful parks and public spaces usually have five elements associated with them. They are engaging, adaptable, authentic, connected, and iconic. They should be designed to provide comfort, convenience, and enjoyment, fostering social interactions and physical connectivity. Moreover, good design creates visually appealing, interactive space that attracts people every day, year round. It should also be adaptable to support a variety of programming.
It is important for public spaces to also be authentic – celebrating the unique identity, heritage, and culture of Lebanon, while also contributing to the quality of life of a neighborhood or specific area within the city. Connections to the broader City system of sidewalks, bike paths, green spaces, streetscapes, and mixed use environments that connect neighborhoods, employment centers, and cultural districts are necessary. And finally, they should be iconic, creating a unique and transformative experience where they shift the paradigm and redefine their neighborhood or community.
While the intangible benefits of parks and public spaces are wonderful for people’s quality of life, there are quantifiable economic benefits in return on investment and a city’s tax base. As CityLab noted in its “Why We Pay More for Walkable Neighborhoods,” (https://www.citylab.com/life/2012/05/why-you-pay-more-walkable-neighborhoods/2122/) if your home is located within a walkable area and near a park, the value will likely go up by $81.54 per square foot. According to Americans for the Arts’ “Arts & Economic Prosperity III” report, parks and public spaces that incorporate local heritage and art will attract more tourists, while also promoting a sense of pride and connection for residents. For every dollar invested, there is generally a $7 return on the investment.
Amenity infrastructure is so critical that it helps potentially undesirable areas transform into hubs of activity and redevelopment. In many cases, the creation of any park space or public space on a vacant or under-utilized parcel can lead to new residential, mixed-use or retail area around these sites, all of which increase the quality of life for residents and visitors to that community.
Activating Lebanon’s parks and public spaces goes beyond the physical design elements by incorporating interactive programming. Many communities engage residents and attract tourists with performing arts, food trucks, fitness workouts, and dance parties. Often, local governments do not have the capacity or funding to dedicate staff to work on programming; therefore, partnerships between a downtown association, parks department, neighborhood associations, scouts, and other not-for-profit organizations are critical to creating and managing an events program.