Public open spaces are elements within neighborhoods that can make communities a more pleasant place to live in. They can be found in the form of playgrounds, public seating areas, public plazas, agricultural land, and vacant lots.
One of the main purposes open spaces serve is to provide recreational spaces for the community. These spaces may encourage various physical activities and enhance the environmental quality of neighborhoods.
But what happens when an open space remains undeveloped but is still accessible to the public?
Transforming Open Spaces
Unused open spaces in a community may cause a string of issues for local officials and citizens alike. They’re often turned into dumpsites or a hideout for dangerous and illegal activities. Eventually, this may affect the neighborhood’s reputation, and may even cause health and safety concerns in the community.
That’s why if there are unused open spaces in a community, it’s always a good idea to turn them into something that has a meaningful purpose. However, before transforming public open spaces and making any changes, you need to first consult with the urban planning committee in your district. This is to make sure that you conform to their policies for the use and transformation of open spaces. Aside from that, you should also consider the economic, social, recreational, natural, and cultural needs of your community.
If these are details you can take care of without much hassle, then the only thing you’ll be needing next are ideas.
As an inspiration, here are some creative ways you can try to turn unused open spaces in your community into vibrant public places:
1. Start Community Gardens
What better way to make a free space more useful than to start a community garden? The idea isn’t as overwhelming as you might think. You only need to tap a few people with the same ideas as yours to help you kick-start the project. After that, create a detailed plan that you can present to the local authorities in your community. Once it’s approved and you have all the resources you need, you can start a community garden.
Starting a community garden through a collaborative effort can potentially decrease the crime rate and the number of hungry people in the community. Aside from creating a nearby source of fresh produce, participating community members will also be able to save on food costs.
2. Organize Local Market Plazas
Local market plazas have become a trend in many communities but they are far more than that. They offer huge potential most especially in the local economy as they do not only provide income to the merchants within the plaza but may also help build local business partnerships. Aside from that, local market plazas these days often serve as the ‘living room’ of a city or town, where people can gather to eat, buy products, and simply interact with one another.
Local markets are also highly beneficial for the local economy in many ways. Since more money stays within the community, it helps to boost the economy locally, while also helping to fill in the gaps in the local market product-wise. Consequently, it can inspire the development of new products according to the demands of consumers within the community.
3. Build A Picnic Park
Parks are the best place for community people to gather at. It can even be used to hold events and small daily gatherings like morning exercises or just having a lunch or afternoon picnic with family and friends. When large enough, parks can also be used for town festivals and other crowd gathering events.
To turn an open space into a lovely picnic park, plan a nature-friendly landscape with trees, shrubs, and flowers around the area. Trees should be scattered and big enough to provide shade in most areas of the park. Installing bench seats and tables may also encourage people to stay longer.
4. Create Mini-Forests
Tiny forests can be created just about anywhere as they don’t require a huge amount of land. Moreover, there’s a wide variety of fast-growing trees that can be planted to create a mini-forest.
Mini-forests are best suited in crowded metropolitan areas where they can help improve air quality. The advantages of planting trees in open spaces go beyond their aesthetic value as they help reduce air, water, and even noise pollution. Aside from that, mini-forests may also serve as a habitat for butterflies and birds.
5. Turn Passive Streets Into Inviting Sidewalks
Streets are multifunctional public open spaces. However, when sidewalks are big enough but look too bare and have no real purpose, it may seem like wasted space, especially when it’s neglected and not maintained.
Transforming streets into multipurpose public spaces that might interest people can be based on three things: providing a sense of safety, encouraging exciting activities, and displaying interesting attractions. What makes streets livable nowadays is when people feel a desire to not just go through it, but to go to it.
If the streets in your community have unused open spaces on the sidewalk, with enough room for a few creative ideas, here are some suggestions you can try adding:
- Food booths
- Waiting areas with roofs and benches
- Plants and shrubs
- Vending machines for food and essential items
- Wall art
These ideas are also an opportunity to showcase local culture, as food and art are great media for this purpose.
Public open spaces, like other community services and infrastructure, are useful public assets that can make communities more livable, equitable, and prosperous. For successful communities, open spaces transformed into inviting spaces continue to serve many purposes.
Although the transformation process is understandably daunting and challenging especially in smaller communities, more countries are developing laws and better standards to govern the planning process of public open spaces. Also, there are lots of non-profit foundations advocating urban transformation for a safer and greener environment, and they’re all keen on helping communities.
For anyone who wants to make a difference, you only need to ask the right people to help you start this project that will benefit the community in many ways.