Resurgence of Public Open Spaces

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Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) has planned a 300-acre infrastructure project in one of the most extravagant locations of Mumbai. This infrastructure project between Cuffe Parade and Nariman Point is not a commercial hub, a luxurious residential township or a mall. Rather an open public space! This park is as per the development plan (DP) 2034 and is modelled on the similar lines of New York’s Central Park. It stands to be a crucial decision imperative for the sustainable economic, social and cultural development of a city like Mumbai.

Public spaces are vividly recognised as “the art of city life”, where the interaction, movements and connection between different ethnic groups, age, gender as well as people from all walks of life happen. Public spaces can be the streets through which we commute to office or school, grounds where people take pleasure in playing all sorts of sports, places where people go for morning or evening walk or someplace to relax from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Public spaces make cities work, as they provide a platform for the social and cultural development of a city. The most prominent public spaces generally have a historical cultural or political background attached to it!

However, newer technologies are redefining the development of the social connection and network of a social being, reducing the use of public spaces. Various traditional social, economic, political and cultural activities have transferred from public space to the private ones. Also, the preference of commercializing open spaces is adding on to the further shrinking of public spaces!

However, there is a necessity for the resurgence of open public spaces across urban cities. Following are the reasons for the same –

  1. Open spaces act as a catalyst for the socio-cultural development of the region. It enables informal exchanges and coincidental meetings with people from different ethnic groups. The soothing environment of a public space enables people to be themselves in front of others.
  2. Apart from the connection with nature, these open spaces reduce the environmental impacts and enhance urban resilience. Regions near public open spaces are pervaded by fresh and cool air.
  3. Accessibility to well-maintained public spaces can positively impact the physical and mental health of a being. It encourages people to involve in some of the other physical activities which reduce the risk of heart attack, diabetes, obesity, colon cancer and ill health.
  4. As public spaces encourage people to walk or cycle more, the alternative motorized vehicle usage will reduce leading to less traffic and environmental impact.
  5. As the benefits of a public open space are multi-fold, the places adjacent or near the open public space experience increase in the value of real estate. As the value increases, benefits in terms of increased taxes are transferred to the government during the transaction of nearby properties.
  6. Open spaces can be a differentiating factor for investors as well as tenants while deciding a place to work or live. Hence, it can act as a vital business and marketing tool to lure the prospective customers.
  7. Peripheral sectors such as retail are attracted to prominent public spaces, as people attract people and it means more business
  8. With decreasing sizes of houses, people perceive public spaces as their extended homes, where they like to spend a considerable amount of time

Planning and design are crucial factors to be considered while developing public spaces. Design should incorporate flexible movements and seating arrangement, with a bottom line of enhancing the individual experience. Also, the maintenance of these public spaces in terms of cleanliness and proper landscaping is imperative for their sustainability quotient.

As the rate of urbanization is compounding, there is a higher demand for land parcels. It directly puts pressure on to the creation of public spaces, as open spaces are primarily seen as opportunities for commercial investment. However, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development goals, which aims to “provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities.”, the urban planning should incorporate more open public spaces. Cities are fundamentally about people and the common and long-term good of city is to make these public spaces more lively and enjoyable.

Author Name : Bhavya Gupta