Project EverGreen Note: This article originally appeared in the Post-Bulletin on August 29, 2016.

They’re called pocket parks, and those little pieces of green space can seemingly appear out of nowhere when rounding an unfamiliar corner in many downtowns. They sit between buildings, providing respite from concrete and asphalt.

One of Rochester’s prime examples, Harwick Courtyard, popped into conversation unexpectedly last week as Jeff Bolton, chairman of the Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency Board and chief administrative officer of Mayo Clinic, presented ongoing Discovery Square efforts to the DMC Corp. Board.

Amid talk of what could be up to 2 million square feet of Mayo Clinic development aimed to attract new research partners in what has been called DMC’s economic engine, Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede asked about the small park: “Is there going to be any attention to that, either to retain or create green space in the midst of all that building that may go on?”

Bolton quickly offered reassurance. While much of his planned comments were about attracting new development to fill the clinic’s 35 percent of the district, he noted green space has been part of the conversation and should have been part of his planned presentation.
“The idea of green space is a critical part of anywhere people are going to come together,” he said. “Green space — I think everyone on the board knows — is very important.”

That importance goes beyond creating places for people to meet. Green space also provides healthy options for breaks during hectic days and offers environmental connections amid towers of brick and mortar. It simply makes any city better.

That’s why we’re glad to hear the commitment to green space. As Bolton noted, much of what Mayo Clinic owns in the district, which primarily sits between Third Street Southwest and Sixth Street Southwest from Broadway to Fifth Avenue, is covered with parking lots. In its current state, much of the property doesn’t engage the pedestrian or offer inviting views.

Those parking lots, however, will likely make ideal building sites. We also hope parts of them will be considered for the creating inviting places for people to come together, whether it’s new pocket parks or something grander.

The downtown core already has limited park space, and the walk from one to another can be daunting for those with mobility issues. The idea of creating relaxing areas in addition to Central Park, Mayo Park and Soldiers Field Park needs to stay part of any development plan.

That’s why we’re glad to hear it pop up out of nowhere during last week’s DMCC board meeting and be welcomed with encouraging words.
We trust those words will sprout more opportunities for green space as development continues.

For more information on Project EverGreen’s programs that promote the economic, social and lifestyle benefits of managed green spaces, visit www.ProjectEverGreen.org

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