Even though I like great architecture and usually marvel at challenging engineering projects, I always notice parts of the urban landscape that would look better if they were landscaped, covered with plants, trees, shrubs, lawns, and so on. Whenever I see an unnecessarily wide street or vacant properties or rights-of-way, I always envision how much better they would look if there were less concrete, less asphalt, or if the soil was landscaped with greenery. Fortunately, as a silver lining in the dark cloud of the last two years, urban greening interest and new projects have soared compared to past decades. This is partly because the pandemic made us appreciate the need for open space and fresh air more than before. Suddenly, being inside with lots of people became a health threat. And lots of municipalities worldwide looked for ways to create more open spaces by closing parts of or entire streets, adding bike lanes because bus lines were interrupted and more people were biking, and so on.
I am a big fan of greening projects. They are fun to conceptualize, plus, since they usually require community involvement, they are a way to work effectively with people you might have never come into contact with otherwise. And the way these projects start is with someone or some individuals, such as residents, public servants, or built environment professionals, identifying a subject site and having a vision in their minds of what it could look like. This is the first step in this new trend of greening projects. And the next step is typically to determine, at least perfunctorily, if the project is feasible both economically as well as legally. And by honestly, I mean that it will abide by public works, building code, life safety, and other governmental regulations. Sometimes this part can take a while because you need to prepare enough material for a public agency to review while at the same time not spending too much time, effort, and potentially costly for a project, which may not be feasible to build. In addition, often, public agencies can take a considerable amount of time determining if they can provide project approval. Therefore, it is best to get some advice from a built environmental professional, which can typically tell you early on if your project is feasible.
Once you have even tacit approval for your greening project, widen your circle of stakeholders to help you with the next tasks, including an open discussion of the project’s design, since the more buy-in you get from the local community, the more viable your project will be. Additionally, you might need to fundraise, which requires a substantial effort that your community can assist you with. And just like in networking, some of the stakeholders you engage might know someone with the funds, expertise, or resources you will need to achieve your vision.
I have highlighted some of the more immediate and salient work needed to design and build a green space. Still, since it is a project, you will need to create a plan, which includes the scope (i.e., detailed description of the work), schedule, and budget in addition to assessing risks, other resource needs, and procurement. Therefore, for this to work, you need sound management and leadership.