Intro to Green Spaces

On the evening of July 27, 2010, I attended the event at MAX Credit Union where Mayor Todd Strange spoke to our group of young professionals. The theme, “The Future of Montgomery,” was very relevant and timely. I believe that we are at a pivotal point in the development of our city where young professionals like ourselves can have a true impact by positively affecting the ways that downtown Montgomery will be further renewed and revitalized.

As a professional designer interested in landscape architecture and urban design working with 2WR Architects, I see that a large part of the future of Montgomery is related to urban design and architectural retrofit and infill projects as coordinated with the SmartCode. Key to these efforts is the creation of green space in our city.

Why is green space important? Some of the top reasons include:

  • economic development including increased property values and an impetus for revitalization near green areas, business and job creation, tourism management and use, and profits from programmatic entertainment events, etc.
  • psychological liberation from pressures of living and/or working in a growing city
  • more opportunities for physical activities that can reduce obesity and other health issues
  • increased programs for entertainment (water sports, hiking, cycling, etc), education, music, and the arts in and near green space
  • environmental benefits in the areas of air, soil, and water management.

It is exciting to be here in Montgomery at a time when, if combined, our voices can call attention to ways our city can become a better place for us to live and work.

EMERGE Montgomery is made of a phenomenal group of young professionals that have the capability to analyze what is good about other cities that have already made revitalization changes, and lobby for these elements to become a reality in Montgomery. In cities across the south like Chattanooga, Charleston, and Savannah, younger generations are becoming increasingly more interested in the economic and social advantages of mixed use living in urban environments — ways of living that immediately bring up the subjects of green space and the need for a connection to nature for psychological freedom from the stresses of life in the city.

Outdoor entertainment and recreation made available through the creation of green space, added to entertainment venues, make living in our city even more attractive. Typically projects like these come to reality through public/private partnerships that start with buy-in from city entities such as the office of the Mayor and the Planning Department. Here are just a few examples of green space projects:

Through involvement in increasing green and open space projects, we can take even more advantage of Montgomery’s downtown and waterfront area. The Amphitheater has gone a long way in improving the number of programmed events, but part of the advantage to a large green space near downtown is the capability to enjoy nature at any time without the confines of a structured program, all close to our offices and homes. Green and open spaces are more than tree lined streets, though we do want tree lined streets as well! Green and open spaces are places to connect with nature, and specifically, places that we want close to our homes and offices for the sake of a quick escape.

One of the most valuable components of any city is its relationship of green space to the built environment. We’ve seen the impact of green space in places we’ve visited, and maybe even in other places we’ve lived. City planners agree that green space is advantageous, not only for the psychological, environmental, and social rewards, but also for the provable increase in the value of property adjacent to green areas and the other aspects of economic development that are a result of adequate green space creation.

When I think of green space, I’m not thinking just about the aesthetics of natural areas, but also about functionality and programming to include all of the things we love to do on a daily basis. Street trees are a good start, but what about interactive spaces and places that we will look forward to embracing on a regular basis? The beauty of having these larger open green spaces in cities is that we can leave our jobs and walk into a nice park that may be programmed for recreation (walking, cycling, hiking, etc.), musical events or other after-hours events.

We understand that there is a lack of public green space in Downtown Montgomery. Perhaps the reason for this is because there’s not a loud enough voice from residents of this city expressing the need for both small and large dedicated green spaces in downtown. Due to the riverfront improvement that sparked more interest in downtown entertainment venues, the perception of downtown Montgomery not being a great place to hang out is rapidly changing.

However, when I look at our parks downtown, I rarely see anyone using them for recreational or nature focused activities. And even though as kids most of us enjoyed cycling, I rarely see people cycling. My suspicion is because while the downtown parks that we do have are nice, they are either designed for sitting or programmed events. A person living or working downtown must drive to parks designed for more active pursuits. While the change that has occurred thus far is excellent, my hope is that we can continue to create more green space in our city and maximize its utilization by taking input about its design from younger residents.

Andrew Cole-Tyson is a landscape architect at 2WR, a 40-person architectural firm with offices in the historic Anderson Block Building on Commerce Street in downtown Montgomery, and in Columbus, GA. He views the landscape as an enormous canvas for experimentation and expression of ideas. A naturalist, he is particularly interested in relationships of people to nature and public park spaces. His work includes environmental and site analysis, site and community master planning, horticultural and planting design, irrigation design, graphic design, horticultural consulting and landscape architectural construction document production.

Note: This piece was originally published in an e-mail sent out to members of a young professionals group called Emerge Montgomery. We reprint it here with Mr. Cole-Tyson’s permission.

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  1. Green Spaces 2: Cypress Pond « Midtown Montgomery Living | 3 September, 2010
  1. robert sschroeder says:

    ‘green spaces’?. yes, downtown is thriving and a good thing. however, as a realist, would it be thriving without the high visability and presence of the police force? did mayor strange promise a cop for every ‘green space’? if not, i wouldn’t go there without a weapon/permit, especially after dark. we are barely safe inside our ‘home space’. as i evidenced the ‘thug’ peeking in my windows and attempting to enter my house in broad daylight last week. btw, i was patiently waiting for him to gain entry while my wife called 911, he then decides to leave …… a lucky man he was.

    • stetson23 says:

      Hello Robert,

      Thanks so much for commenting. It’s good to have a “realist” like you reading. Crime is a problem in every city. Is part of your “realism” a belief that the city should only build a park if it hires one police officer per green space? Do you think a 1:1 green-space-to-officer ratio would keep public spaces safe? Would each green space have a dedicated never-sleeping officer devoted only to patrolling that area?

      Or do you think that perhaps the city could make decisions about green spaces and then have a law enforcement budget that managed patrols in a way that was based more on community needs?

      It’s sad that when someone says “public park,” you immediately clutch at your wallet and think of a gathering place for criminals. Many people see open urban spaces as civic benefits and not dangerous breeding grounds for nefarious deeds.

      Let’s leave aside the fact that your argument contradicts itself (if the crooks are hanging out in parks, they’re less likely to be peeking into your windows) and let’s leave aside what appears to be a boast about nearly shooting someone.

      The real issue here is empirical evidence about green spaces and whether cities prioritizing parks are suddenly hobbled by a crime wave. Do you have any statistical evidence of this? If you think parks cause crime, would you favor the city abolishing our existing system of lovely parks? What should be built there instead? Police stations? Prisons? Retail shopping?

      • robert schroeder says:

        reply to whomever (don’t know your name),

        fist let me simplyfy what i thought was a simple point-
        1) i said the revitalization of d’town was a good thing
        2) i asked if the mayor was promising police
        3) i stated i would do go there without protection, police or otherwise,
        4) i cited the most recent of many events i have experienced that ’empirically’ show that safety is a high priority, inside a home or out.
        5) i implied the fact that one must be willing to protect loved ones if police response time is not effective. (in all due respect to those that serve, 5-7 minutes ‘doesn’t cut it’ when faced with imminent danger). how one goes about protection (gun, mace, baseball bat whatever, is their personal choice.
        so let me summerize for you in one simpler
        statement ” the revitalization of d’town in any manner is good, however it cannot be achieved without a police presence”.

        your comments do not address that fact whatsoever, instead you would rather post thinly veiled personal attacks at me,which is usually the standard practice, of those who view their own ‘supposed intelligencia’ as superior to the common folks, they pretend to be helping.
        if you really want to help the people i suggest you pursue the basics in these economic times.
        lower the unfair grocery tax (proportionatly unfair to the poor). funny, liquer tax lower than food, hummmmm.
        improve the deplorable school system (but that would educate the people to see the real motives of those offering to ‘help’)
        etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.
        what is “sad” is that you have no understanding what this city really needs, quality education, relief to the poor through unfair tax codes, jobs and of course a strong police force. do that first and you will have a viable educated, working comminity that would be able someday to afford the costs of your pie in the sky ‘green space’
        “thanks so much for your reply”

  2. stetson23 says:

    Robert, we both seem to agree that downtown revitalization is good. To prefer a flourishing downtown over abandoned decay isn’t exactly a controversial position to take, but at least we agree on something.

    You ask if the mayor was “promising” police. The answer seems to be yes. Each year the city has a budget and in it there are appropriations for law enforcement. Those officers will patrol downtown, whether the spaces are parks or warehouses or water slides. Police hiring has not, as far as we know, been tied to the number of parks in the city. By the way, statistics show that crime is down, not that that’s likely to impair your vigilante fantasies in any way.

    We also agree that the state’s grocery tax is regressive and should be repealed. And we both support the idea of good, strong public schools. Other posts here on MML rebut your claim that Montgomery’s public schools are “deplorable.”

    Currently, Montgomery can afford to embrace the vision outline by Mr. Cole-Tyson in his above post. In fact, we can’t afford not to. On Friday, we’ll post another piece by Mr. Cole-Tyson outlining the specifics of a project that we hope the entire city will support.

    • robert schroeder says:

      again, your personal insults do not shed much credibility to your position. so now i am a “fantasizing vigalante” because i am willing to protect my family within my own home. hmmm , always thought a vigilante was ‘one who takes the law into his own hands’ . you may want to refer to the city of montgomery and the state alabama codes to verify the ‘appropriate measures and actions that can LAWFULLY be taken by a citizen in order to protect the lives of others and himself and his property’ . next you will be calling me a ‘ a genocidal, racist ss nazi storm trooper’ because my last name is german. it is obvious you have never been responsible for the lives and well being of the defenseless, let alone your own. and believe it or not i would not wish that burden upon you, it is a terrible experience.

      thanks for informing me that the city has a budget that is divided to it’s various departments, i wouldn’t have known that without your condesending form of ‘intelligencia’.

      the mayor “seems to be” promising police support? do you really the private capital (10’s of mil.) pumped into d’town would be there on a ‘seems to be’?

      of course mml pumps up the schools in the area that is their agenda, the the united stades department of eduction for the real facts.

      nice of you to pass off your lack of a cohesive ability for discussion of a simple statement initally made by myself to mr. cole- tyson.
      btw, who would br the very first to benefit monetarily? hmmm, i wonder???

  3. kate says:

    Two things.

    First, monetary benefit is not always a bad thing. We try, in general to do the things we love. Do we criticize teachers for promoting education? Police for promoting orderly conduct? This is obviously a red herring.

    Second, the MML post in question on quality Montgomery schools does in fact cite US Dept of Ed data in addition to other sources. Read before you criticize.

    Your original argument has fallen apart. Crime is going down and parks do not cause crime.

  4. robert schroeder says:

    you are further off base than the last guy.

    i never critized the police or teachers, as a matter of fact i implied that they were 2 of the most important things we should be investing in for the benifit of the community, rather than ‘green spaces’.
    i never said capitalism was a bad thing, just asked who would be the first to recieve the monetary rewards. i am a true capitalist myself. however i do not profit on the poor and less educated. let me make it more ‘chic’ for you, ever heard of blood diamonds and the current trial in progress?

    according to the united states department of education, where does alabama stand in the ratings vs. the rest of the country? now, don’t count the numerous private schools that charge the equivelent of a college tuition.

    try and keep your eye on the ball- the only thing i ever criticized was the use of dwindeling hard earned taxpayer dollars for unnessesary green spaces given the current economic condition of the city, state, country.
    sorry you are opposed to sacraficing your daily enjoyment and nature walks while your brothers and sisters go without food, heat, basic hygene and a dignified existance.

    by the way i am a stock/options trader and i enjoy creating the deterioration of value in the 401k accounts people like you, as it allows me to contribute more to the truely needy.

  5. Andrew Cole-Tyson says:

    This is interesting feedback from the article that I provided. I have no intent to harm anyone, just want to offer up a little different perspective of the lifestyle that I choose to live. I live in an abandoned building in between the neighborhoods of cottage hill and what would be termed as an unsafe place leading toward West Montgomery. I am living here intentionally experimenting with what it may take to make our unsafe places safe. A famous author and Urban Designer name Jane Jacobs summed it up for us. “Eyes on the street” This does not have to be police eyes only. The greatest places in cities across america are great because they are unsegregated and attractive to all types of human beings. For whatever it is worth, I am a 28 year old white male living in a place that is considered unsafe. I have never been broken in to and often leave the doors unlocked. Why do I think it is safe here where I live. Because I take the time to talk to the drug users and alcoholics that walk the streets and listen to what they have to say and make friends with them. They are now my friends and make me feel right at home, regardless of their habits. All people need community no matter what the addictions are, and communities that foster a diverse group of individuals are much healthier than those that remain segregated. I am trying to learn to relate to the lower income people that walk the streets to learn why they want to steal. The issues are much deeper than simply thinking that a police force can handle it all. It starts with a willingness to be a part of the lives of the criminals, or at minimum the lives of the non-criminals who live in the neighborhoods where the criminals live. I have been doing work in West Montgomery for over 1 year now daily and have learned alot about how to deal with the “unsafe people.” In many ways I just want to remain living here. The since of community is really strong in West Montgomery. Will be glad to share my work with those interested. Related to green-spaces. Green spaces do not need police to keep them safe. They need an unsegregated mix of users that want to keep coming back to these places because they are designed well. People like being around people, however police do intimidate the criminals. Unsafe is a perception that can be oversome if you take the time to begin to talk to and relate to those people that you may think are unsafe. I live this life daily and it really works! It is best to attemt to interact with the criminals during their daily lives vs. when they are at your window on a mission. Their motivations then are much different.

  6. Katie R. says:

    I believe that the creation of green space within our city will actually help reduce crime.

    Countless studies by respected organizations support this point of view. For example, the University of Delaware recently published a study that states, “Contrary to common beliefs, maintained green spaces actually reduce crime. A study of 98 vegetated and unvegetated apartment buildings in Chicago showed that vegetated spaces cut crime by half, in addition to inspiring pride for surroundings that translated into less litter and less graffiti. Besides mitigating psychological precursors to violence by reducing stress and anxiety, green spaces increase a neighborhood’s collective surveillance…” The full article is available here:

    Similar studies were completed in New York City and the results were the same: a green space had less crime than a non-green space.

    Additionally, Yale offers an interesting perspective in the piece called “Predicting the Social Impacts of Restoration in an Urban Park.”

    • robert schroeder says:

      crime is due to the lack of education, law and order, and proper funding to the disadvantaged -period. go for a nature walk and think about it provided your selfish, imature mind is capable.
      p.s. how’s that 401k doin’ this quarter? lol

  7. robert schroeder says:

    well… the montgomery school board just announced a budgt cut back of $34 MILLION and 52 teacher ‘units’ …that ought to buy you plenty of green space to meditate in. Happy now?!

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