Building Solutions

Putting People at the Centre of Parks and Public Spaces

We’re the experts at developing and implementing solutions to city park challenges

We know that public spaces and park systems thrive when community partners work together. Park People is uniquely positioned to build people and communities into the heart of parks.

We provide research, planning, partnership development and community engagement services that put our core principle—when communities get involved, parks get better—into action. From helping you connect residents to their parks, to establishing strong public, private and non-profit partnerships, to creatively thinking about bringing non-traditional public spaces to life, we work to create and sustain parks that help cities thrive. Park People’s knowledge, networks and on-the-ground expertise have resulted in actionable park solutions that transform parks into the hearts of communities.

Community Engagement

  • Facilitating community engagement into for every stage of park and public space planning, design and programming
  • Designing programs that foster ongoing community stewardship of parks and public spaces

Partnerships

  • Philanthropic and private contribution management for contributions to parks and public spaces
  • Creating agreements for managing park operations, maintenance and programming
  • Manage government relations and public-private collaboration
  • Building partnerships that maximize community development goals in underserved communities

Research

  • Reports highlighting best practices and design principles to derive practical solutions for parks and public spaces
  • Measuring how communities use public spaces to inform park and public space planning, design and programming
  • Community Development expertise to transform parks into engines that fuel social outcomes in underserved neighbourhoods

Projects

Public Life Study (2016)

Park People worked with the City of Toronto and Gehl Studio to undertake Toronto’s first public life survey. Park People recruited more than 60 volunteer surveyors and coordinated and managed the study of people’s use of Downtown public spaces. Park People trained volunteer surveyors to conduct  behavioural observation surveys, pedestrian and cycling counts, as well as demographic information. The data was then organized for analysis by Gehl Studio.

Under Gardiner: Programming, Operations, and Maintenance Study (2016)

Commissioned by Waterfront Toronto, Park People worked with HR&A Advisors to undertake a study of Project: Under Gardiner, a unique proposed linear public space underneath an elevated highway in downtown Toronto. The study estimated future operating and maintenance costs and examined potential governance options for the park based on both local and international precedents. The final recommendation to create a new non-profit management entity was adopted unanimously by City Council.

Under Gardiner Community Engagement (2016)

Park People worked with Waterfront Toronto to offer unique public engagement opportunities as part of a wider public consultation process for Project: Under Gardiner, a proposed linear public space underneath an elevated highway in downtown Toronto. Park People designed and led walking workshops on the site that invited participants to share observations and ideas that were then fed back to the project team. Over 200 people participated in 4 separate walks.

Sparking Change (2014 – Ongoing)

From the beginning, Park People has focused on animating and improving parks in underserved neighbourhoods.  We have unique insight into what it takes to work with community groups, nonprofits, citizens, and funders to meet youth engagement, health promotion, food security and physical recreation goals in parks. Through TD Park Builders Park People administered micro “seed” grants to help residents transform underserved parks into neighbourhood hubs.We have partnered to deliver initiatives like Arts in the Parks and Moonlight Movies to bring creative programming to Toronto’s underserved neighbourhoods.

Research and Planning

Sparking Change (Forthcoming, 2017)

Funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and TD Bank, our upcoming Sparking Change Report explores the community and social impacts of involving residents in underserved communities more deeply in park animation and improvement projects.

Thriving Places (2016)

Thriving Places continues the work of Making Connections by highlighting15 innovative parks and open space projects—such as downtown squares, urban trails, and street redesigns—in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The report highlights areas that are undergoing intensification and demographic change. Thriving Places was funded by the Province of Ontario. Read Thriving Places Report >>

Making Connections (2015)

Making Connections is a ground-breaking report that examines strategies for creating a connected network of parks and open spaces in urban neighbourhoods. The report focuses on non-traditional open spaces such as hydro corridors, laneways, streets, plazas, and schoolyards as well as traditional parks. Launched in April 2015, Making Connections has been downloaded over 15,000 times and helped influence the City of Toronto’s TOCore downtown parks master plan. Read Report Here >>

Growing Opportunities (2014)

Growing Opportunities proposed park partnership possibilities for Allan Gardens, a signature downtown Toronto Park and Conservatory. The report reviewed options and recommended a partnership model for the Friends of Allan Gardens to best engage with the City and the surrounding community. The report was funded by TD Bank and commissioned by the Friends of Allan Gardens. Read the Report Here >>

Building Solutions Stories:

Our city is growing—our parks budget must grow, too

This year was an exciting one for public spaces in Toronto. There was the announcement of the Under Gardiner (now The Bentway), Rail Deck Park, a renewed Grange Park, a “super park” in the Lower Don Valley, and strong support for The Green Line. Toronto is booming in...

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