Well-designed places enhance healthy cultural and democratic life in our neighborhoods. Thoughtful and inclusive public spaces support social mixing of people with diverse backgrounds and incomes and become platforms to strengthen public life and community cohesiveness.
NDC is interested in examining factors that influence how a community spends time in its public space and what alterations can be made to increase inclusivity and use. We began studying the health of our public spaces, with the help of the Gehl Institute, in late summer of 2017. Our research focused on identifying the the impact of programming to support public mixing in public space. In late summer of 2017, a team of staff and volunteers used Public Space Public Life tools to document happenings on the YNot Lot in Baltimore. Results suggested that programming increased the use of space by women and trans people as well as creative people of color. The observation tools helped us understand the YNot more deeply and added to our toolbox of ways to tell the story of our places.
Buoyed by success in Baltimore, NDC staff are taking our newly honed skills to Prince George’s County. Magruder Park is Hyattsville’s largest public space, a whopping 32 acres of playing fields, walking paths, and recreation and play areas. The City of Hyattsville is seeking to reimagine this space for current and future residents. A team led by NDC will deploy a multi-layered engagement approach, including small group conversations, bilingual surveys of park users, and visioning sessions open to the larger community. Our observation work will focus on assessing the space’s efficacy through a look at perceptions of comfort, protection, and enjoyment and designs will amplify the best of the site while mitigating conditions that contribute to disuse.
Before designing, though, the team needs to understand who uses the park, who doesn’t, and what they do or don’t do in Magruder Park. Over the next few weeks, you’ll find NDC staff and team members observing and documenting in Magruder. Come say hello if you see us and share your thoughts. And check out SpeakupHVL for more information on the process and designs NDC, Bradley Site Design, and the Rivera Group will be presenting.