New Urban Land Institute Report, The Case for Open Space, Shows How Open Spaces Can Deliver a Significant Return on Investment


WASHINGTON (October 24, 2018) – (RealEstateRama) — The Case for Open Space, a new report from the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Center for Sustainability and Economic Performance, makes the business case for real estate investments in parks and open spaces.  Created with guidance from ULI’s Sustainable Development Council in collaboration with ULI’s Building Healthy Places InitiativeThe Case for Open Space highlights the benefits for developers to incorporate parks and open spaces in their developments.


“Active open spaces are proven to deliver an excellent return on investment, often supplying far more in benefits than they cost to construct,” said Elizabeth Shreeve, chairman of the ULI Sustainable Development Council and principal at the SWA Group. “These benefits accrue to private development while effectively strengthening communities and opening opportunities for all.”

The case studies highlighted in the report were drawn from 30 open space projects across the United States that are supported by the private sector. Each demonstrates how mechanisms related to partnerships, funding, zoning and local engagement have allowed developers to support project success while delivering significant community benefits. These benefits include increased buy-in from influential stake holders such as public officials and investors; faster zoning approvals; the ability to capture strong market demand for parks and open space; and new sources of revenue streams.

The report examines five compelling projects that incorporated open space into their developments:

  • Hunter’s Point South – Located in Queens, New York, Hunter’s Point South is a mixed-use affordable housing development that includes 925 permanently affordable housing units, roughly 20,000 square feet of new retail space, a new public school, a community facility space and an 11-acre waterfront park. When fully completed, the development is expected to spur over $2 billion in private investment and create approximately 4,600 jobs.
  • Levy Park – One of the winners of the 2018 ULI Urban Open Space Award, Levy Park in Houston, Texas is a nearly 6-acre neighborhood park where the maintenance is funded through private development. After its redevelopment, Levy Park became the central component for an 11-acre urban activity center that now boasts around 10,000 visitors a week, up from only 75 visitors before redevelopment.
  • Grand Park – Grand Park is a 12-acre public park is downtown Los Angeles that transformed a formerly underused public space into a vibrant gathering place that hosts cultural events, music performances, festivals, and fitness classes. In collaboration with the County of Los Angeles, a private developer invested $50 million to build the park in advance of plans to forward with an associated mixed-use project nearby.
  • Guthrie Green – Built in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Guthrie Green took a 2.6-acre former truck-loading facility and turned it into a highly programmed urban park. It has become the area’s leading destination since its opening in 2012, drawing 3,000 people a week and infusing $150 million in public-private investment into a variety of commercial and residential projects in downtown Tulsa.
  • Solaris Plaza – In Vail, Colorado, a developer repurposed a former parking lot and shopping center to create a mixed-use project with a central gathering place for residents and visitors. Solaris Plaza hosts year-round events such as a weekly farmers market and the GoPro Games. While the town of Vail operates the space, the developer provided capital expenditures for the plaza and is responsible for its maintenance.

“This report aims to provide a range of ideas and inspirations for owners and real estate developers as they consider whether and how to invest in the public realm,” said Shreeve. “The study points to a winning formula: when undertaken thoughtfully, the creation of privately owned or operated, community-accessible open spaces can provide equitable access to resources, strengthen communities, reduce execution risk and contribute to a solid bottom line for real estate investment.”

The Case for Open Space was made possible with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

About the ULI Sustainable Development Council

ULI’s Sustainable Development Council (SDC), which is part of the Institute’s Product Council network of members, aims to accelerate the adoption and implementation of sustainability, resiliency, and health across the real estate industry. The council provides a forum for exchange of emerging best practices including planning, financing, entitlements, design, construction, and operational aspects of projects that advance triple bottom-line benefits while fostering more sustainable built environment.

contact Justin Arnold, 202-448-8717,

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