Prospect Hill is located in Syracuse’s Northside neighborhood. The neighborhood is home to a diverse population including long time residents and new immigrants. It has struggled with retaining its treasure of older homes and dense urban residential fabric as properties decline from neglect and vacancy increases. St. Joseph’s Hospital, a major institution and employer in the neighborhood, is undertaking a substantial renovation and has committed to working with the Syracuse Metropolitan Development Association and other partners to spearhead revitalization efforts in the neighborhood. One topic discussed by the partners has been the integration of green infrastructure and a green infrastructure training program for neighborhood residents. McGroarty Park, a small green space owned by the City of Syracuse that forms an island 75 feet by 465 feet in North McBride Street, was identified as a possible site for green infrastructure improvements. In discussion with the leadership of the Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association it was determined that a vision planning process that engaged community residents would provide them with a plan to guide revitalization of the park and help strengthen involvement and ownership in the neighborhood. The CCDR was asked to organize and facilitate this design process.
Topic Areas: Neighborhood park planning and design, community engagement, green infrastructure
Project Scale: Small urban neighborhood park
Accomplished by: Maren King; Annalena Davis, Jessica Gale, Wu Zixu, and Kim Zhang - student assistants for design process; Rebecca Kanfer – student assistant for final documentation
Partners: Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association; the Northside Collaboratory; ESF Outreach; City of Syracuse Department of Parks, Recreation and Youth Programs.
The initial action in the design process was a meeting among the leadership from the neighborhood association and the CCDR, ESF Outreach and the Northside Collaboratory to introduce the idea for the project, determine goals and define responsibilities. The neighborhood association and the Collaboratory took charge of locating and scheduling space and reaching out and inviting community members to the design workshops. ESF Outreach was responsible for coordination with green infrastructure training. The CCDR was responsible for facilitating the community workshops and preparing the alternative and final design studies. The parks department provided existing conditions information and attended all of the meetings.
The design process was organized into three stages. In the first stage, the CCDR design team visited the site with neighborhood residents and prepared a preliminary inventory. They facilitated a workshop with community residents that introduced the vision process and the concepts of green infrastructure. Through mapping and brainstorming residents shared information about the existing park site and context, including the park’s importance in the neighborhood, how it is used, and ideas for how they might like to use it in the future.
Through analysis of this information, the design team developed a series of goals that would guide all of the design strategies for park redevelopment. The design team held a two hour charette during which six alternatives were created; from these the team selected four designs for continued development. These designs were documented in model form to promote communication with community residents. At the second workshop each student designer presented the design they had developed. Neighborhood residents looked at each model in detail, talked with the designers, wrote comments about their preferences and concerns and participated in small group discussions about the designs. There was also a brief presentation by the CCDR about the role of the park in the neighborhood, and the role of the neighborhood in the park, to introduce ideas of stewardship and ownership.
The final design represents a vision for the park that can be accomplished in the next five to seven years. It is based on analysis and synthesis of the preferences expressed by neighborhood residents and on the funding and person-power resources anticipated to be available in that time frame. Many neighbors present at the workshops expressed the desire to have more plant material and four season interest and pledged to help with maintenance of planting beds and the proposed rain gardens. At the final presentation the CCDR facilitated a brainstorming session for residents to prepare an action plan to initiate implementation of the park master plan.
It is possible that the rain gardens will be installed in summer 2010 which will provide the project team the opportunity to continue to work with these interested neighbors to implement a maintenance plan that can serve as a model for green infrastructure projects on other Syracuse neighborhoods.