Sustainability assessment of a community open space vision

  • Matthew CohenEmail author
  • John E. Quinn
  • Demi Marshall
  • Tim Sharp
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Sustainable Urban/Rural Planning and Architectural Design Innovation
  2. Sustainable Urban/Rural Planning and Architectural Design Innovation


Urban sustainability visions must address diverse challenges spanning social and ecological issues yet urban visions are often weak in sustainability, demonstrating a need for a strong and holistic assessment of visioning processes, their outputs, and outcomes. Through a case study of a community visioning process for an urban neighborhood-scale open space in South Carolina, United States, this paper presents key insights from a novel approach for assessing the sustainability of visioning projects, framed around a program evaluation logic model. It describes a mixed-methods assessment of the case including: (1) a qualitative analysis of the visioning process that inspects the quality of the participatory process that generated the vision; (2) a content analysis of the vision report—the process output—that analyzes the sustainability content of the stakeholders’ ideas; and (3) a quantitative natural capital assessment that compares the vision against alternative plausible scenarios proposed by stakeholders to the visioning process’ outcomes and evaluates the ecological integrity of the vision. The research finds that the vision was crafted through a fair participatory process that created stakeholder satisfaction, that the vision emphasizes social capital and equity and justice over other sustainability ends, and that the neighborhood vision may generate stronger ecosystem services than other proposed options suggesting opportunity for positive feedbacks. Despite a positive assessment, the assessment used here showed there was room to co-create a stronger vision of a sustainable future that strives to achieve multiple sustainability principles across human and natural systems. Contributing to the literature on urban sustainability assessment, this paper demonstrates a novel and holistic approach to assessing sustainability of local urban planning processes and their outcomes and concludes with recommendations for streamlining such assessments to better inform policy decisions before they are made.


Sustainability visioning Sustainable urban development Sustainability principles Urban planning Urban sustainability assessment Program evaluation 



We would like to thank the residents of New Washington Heights and specifically the board of the Neighborhood Association for welcoming us into their community. We would also like to thank Mike Winiski for co-leading the public engagement process and Melanie Brown for her consulting on research methods for the natural capital assessment. Demi Marshall and Tim Sharp were supported by the Furman Advantage Summer Research Fellowship program.

Supplementary material

11625_2019_659_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (23 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 22 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesFurman UniversityGreenvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyFurman UniversityGreenvilleUSA

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