In some cities, public space has been an important driver of tourism, small business development, and has enhanced the value of surrounding property. However, in Jamaica, much attention is not given to the economic value of high-quality public spaces, particularly in urban communities.
On Monday, September 30, 2019, CAPRI with the kind support of the European Union brought together stakeholders at the Spanish Court Hotel’s Worthington to discuss its working paper on the economic value of urban public spaces. “With an increasingly urbanized population, public spaces are even more important for the health of Jamaica’s cities,” Dr Damien King, Executive Director of CAPRI, said in his presentation. CAPRI’s working paper quantifies the economic value of public spaces in Jamaica in three areas – property, health, and direct use.
Using the case of Emancipation Park in New Kingston, it was found that the park has had a positive impact on nearby property value, health, and direct use value. The findings of a survey administered to park visitors, including a housing price perceptions survey, revealed that the park provides health care savings amounting to J$0.24 billion each year, and recreational use free of charge, amounting to J$67,584,000 in direct use value annually.
“There is evidently a need for the development of public spaces in other areas of Kingston and St. Andrew, as only 17% of Emancipation Park visitors reside in the New Kingston area, and around two-thirds live in other areas of Kingston and St. Andrew. Taking this into account, along with the evidence of economic value added by public spaces both globally and locally, there is clearly a case for an increase in public investment in public spaces in urban areas,” King shared.
The think thank shared its four recommendations to guide the government on how public space could be used to promote economic development:
1. Pedestrianize the streets of Kingston, including temporary cordoning off of streets at set times.
2. Use the community as a starting point in developing a concept for any public space agenda.
3. Identify and allocate funding for ongoing improvement and enhancement of public spaces in
the planning stages of development.
4. Start small and experiment.