Public green space is the key to encouraging active lifestyles, social interaction and economic prosperity, according to Ed McMahon, a senior fellow for sustainable development with the Urban Land Institute.
“Every community in America needs a long-range green space plan or conservation plan … just like you need a transportation plan,” said McMahon, who’s also a senior staff adviser for ULI’s Building Healthy Places Initiative. “If you can decide not only where you want to develop but where you don’t want to develop, that helps everybody.”
The ULI is a nonprofit think tank that researches land use, and has offices around the world, including Washington, D.C.
McMahon spoke to a group of Treasure Valley-wide leaders in Caldwell on Wednesday about the economic value of open space and why cities should be investing in it. Caldwell’s Indian Creek Plaza, as well as the city’s longtime effort to uncover the Indian Creek that winds through downtown, are examples of downtown redevelopment focused on creating spaces that invite communities to get outside, according to a ULI case study on the plaza.
Proximity to green space entices developers and increases property values, according to McMahon.
According to the case study, the Indian Creek has spurred at least $25 million in new construction in Caldwell’s downtown core. In summer 2018, there were 11 buildings under construction and numerous businesses moving back to downtown Caldwell.
“Open space is good for communities,” McMahon said. “It reduces the cost of public services, increases the value of real estate, generates jobs, attracts tourists, causes economic development, contributes to better public health.”
Green open space is becoming increasingly popular across the nation, according to McMahon. He pointed to cities in states such as Texas and Illinois that are doing it right.