A Mixed Method Study to Inform the Implementation and Expansion of Pop-Up Parks for Economic, Behavioral, and Social Benefits

Abstract

The availability of parks and urban green spaces has been associated with a number of benefits, including increased physical activity, improvements in mental health, increases in social interactions, improvements to the environment, and increases in property values. The installation of temporary pop-up parks in urban areas is one way for urban communities to obtain these benefits. In this mixed-methods study, quantitative and qualitative data were gathered by researchers, the city council, a local investment company, and community residents that informed the initiation, iteration, and incremental expansion of a series of temporary, summer pop-up parks in the downtown business district of the City of Los Altos in Northern California over a 4-year period (2013–2016). Results showed that the parks were visited by a large, multigenerational group of users who engaged in leisure-time physical activity, shopped at local stores, attended programed events, and socialized with others. Direct observation and survey data gathered in year 2014 also indicated that foot traffic into businesses directly fronting on a pop-up park (n = 8) was higher during a 4-day period when the park was in place, as compared to a similar 4-day period before the park was installed. The majority of downtown business owners/managers reported no decrease in sales compared to the month before the pop-up park was installed. City sales tax data indicated increases in year-on-year sales tax revenue in the summer quarter of 2014 and 2016 compared with the year (2015) when there was no downtown pop-up park. Perspectives of community residents collected before, during, and after the installation of the pop-up parks indicated that the pop-up park created a vibrant space in an otherwise underutilized area that was enjoyed by a variety of people in a host of ways (e.g., children playing, families relaxing, people shopping and eating at downtown stores and restaurants, people of all ages attending scheduled park events). These results informed a number of discussions and meetings between key stakeholders about the pop-up parks, culminating in a temporary park that was held in a new location in 2017 that was substantially larger in size, installed for a longer time period, cost more, and had more scheduled park events. Results from this prospective investigation of the initial impacts of pop-up parks in this urban location provide insights regarding the potential benefits and viability of such temporary parks for residents and businesses alike.

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Acknowledgments

Thank you to the extraordinary Los Altos community residents, student interns, and Stanford University staff who helped with the data gathering over the years, including Martell Hesketh, Nkeiruka Umed, Victoria Lo, Nicole Rodriguez, Naina Ahuja, Rebecca Rose, Ann Banchoff, Benjamin Chrisinger, Gaby Gayles, Daryth Gayles, Ian Hao, Aria Colister Rodli, Kim-Khanh Le, Daniela Lopes Dos Santos, Jennifer Nguyen, Tiffany Nguyen, Daisy Yip, Vanessa Padilla, Marigold Vu, Leahrachel Mamaril, Stephanie Ton, and Kyla Kent. Our deepest appreciation goes to the city of Los Altos and Passerelle Investments (now known as Los Altos Community Investments) for their collaboration in this research endeavor.

Funding

Drs. King and Winter were supported in part by funding from the Nutrilite Health Institute Wellness Fund at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. Dr. King also received partial financial support through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant Number 7334, National Cancer Institute Grants Numbers 4R01CA211048 and P20CA217199, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation Grant Number 101518, and a Grant from the Discovery Innovation Fund in Basic Biomedical Sciences from Stanford University. Drs. Winter, Sheats, and Banda were supported by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Grant Number T32HL007034. During the manuscript development phase, Dr. Salvo was supported in part by Washington University in St. Louis CDTR Grant Number P30DK092950 from the NIDDK. Early work of the Stanford Healthy Neighborhood Discovery Tool was funded by the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) UL1 RR025744. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funders.

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Correspondence to Sandra J. Winter.

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Winter, S.J., Sheats, J.L., Salvo, D. et al. A Mixed Method Study to Inform the Implementation and Expansion of Pop-Up Parks for Economic, Behavioral, and Social Benefits. J Urban Health 97, 529–542 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-020-00434-w

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Keywords

  • Pop-up parks
  • Mixed-methods study
  • Citizen science
  • Public-private partnerships
  • Physical activity
  • Economic development