Shaping Space for Civic Life: The pivotal role of parks

imageCommunities across the United States face concerning trends related to civic life, including distrust, low voter turnout, and growing social and economic divides. Public space professionals, civic leaders, and community residents alike are interested in re-building trust, revitalizing neighborhoods, and supporting interaction among diverse groups. Promising initiatives are emerging across the country to transform lagging public spaces into dynamic, welcoming, and celebrated ones. In light of these trends, the Center for Active Design has launched “Assembly: Shaping Space for Civic Life,” a pioneering initiative to leverage place-based design as a tool to enhance civic engagement. The Assembly initiative has surfaced groundbreaking information, including quantifiable civic life metrics, as well as causal findings demonstrating that design elements do indeed impact civic perceptions. This session will introduce the Assembly initiative and its evidence-based approach to shaping community design, with an emphasis on parks and open space. Panelists will reflect on historic and emerging research that points to the connection between the built environment and civic participation, and share a range of project examples that seek to enhance civic life through design interventions. Conversations will leave participants with a better understanding of practical strategies for shaping parks through design, programming, and maintenance practices that can enhance civic life in their own communities.

Jennifer Mahar

Senior Director of Civic Initiatives at Fairmount Park Conservancy

Jennifer joined the Fairmount Park Conservancy, non-profit champion of Philadelphia's 10,000 park system, in 2012.   As Senior Director of Civic Initiatives, Jennifer helps oversee 'Reimagining the Civic Commons' - an innovative, collaborative network of public space organizations in Philadelphia. Together, the collective demonstrates ways that civic assets can be connected as an integrated system and how they can be developed to foster talent, opportunity and engagement.   In addition, we partner with leading researchers to experiment with programmatic and design interventions that will help us inform how citizens access civic assets.  Jennifer oversees the Neighborhood Parks Stewardship Program, a unique partnership with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and our network of 100 volunteer park friend groups.  Together we organize, resource and celebrate our wonderful city parks and the volunteers who advocate for them.

Maria Nardi

Director, Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces

Maria Nardi was appointed Director for Miami Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department (PROS) effective August 1, 2017. Ms. Nardi is responsible for one the most diverse and largest park systems in the country.  She oversees Planning and Development, Park Stewardship Operations and Administration of a system that includes over 270 park properties, over 13,000 acres of park land comprised of active and passive parks, as well as protected, environmentally sensitive properties, serving 2.7 million residents and approximately 1.4 million residents for the unincorporated area.  They include the Deering Estate at Cutler, Zoo Miami, managing over 26,000 acres of Natural Areas Conservation and Management (NAM), Golf Enterprise, 14 miles of Beaches, Agriculture Extension, Causeways, 260 miles of roadways, Disabilities Services, Marina Enterprise, and multiple Operating Regions.  

 Ms. Nardi is committed to public service and the enhancement of the community’s health, happiness and prosperity through the implementation of the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Department’s Planning and Design Excellence, Health and Fitness and Conservation Pillars. She has worked in the public sector 20 years where her vision for a sustainable and resilient community focuses on the premise that every great community has a great park system.

 Ms. Nardi oversees the implementation of the Parks and Public Space Masterplan to transform Miami Dade into a more economically, socially, and environmentally vibrant community through a system of parks, public spaces, natural and historic areas connected by greenways/blueways and complete streets designed as linear parks.  Her vision includes the role of parks and public spaces in shaping cities; the emerging evidence-based science of health and the built environment; and the creation of equitable, resilient communities through parks and public space.  

Ms. Nardi is a sought-out speaker on issues related to the role of parks and public space in the development of cities. The Parks Masterplan and Recreation Program has been recognized by the White House and the National Park and Recreation Association as a national model for transforming communities. Among other accolades, she holds invited membership on the highly selective International Women’s Forum and is an appointed member of the Board of Directors of City Parks Alliance, the only independent, nationwide membership organization solely dedicated to urban parks. She has been recognized for her work with the International Progressive Architecture Urban Design Award, the University of Miami Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Architecture Profession, the Harvard Honor Award for Excellence in the Study of Landscape Architecture, The Mayor’s Woman Pioneer Award, and the Miami AIA Leadership in Government Award.

Suzanne Nienaber

Partnerships Director, Center for Active Design

I'm an urban planner and facilitator striving to shape healthier, more engaged communities. As the partnerships director at the Center for Active Design (CfAD) I help people collaborate across sectors to elevate physical, mental, social, and civic well-being in their projects, and inspire transformative community change. Our work draws upon scholarly research and bridges a wide range of disciplines — embracing everything from urban planning and architecture to public health, political science, real estate development, facilities management, and more.

I lead a range of initiatives at CfAD, including Assembly, our pioneering effort to understand how place-based design informs civic engagement objectives such as trust, participation in public life, and stewardship. Through this initiative we’re convening expert advisors, undertaking original research, and synthesizing findings on the relationship between place-based design and civic life.


Shaping Space for Civic Life
09/26/2018 at 2:30 PM (EDT)   |  60 minutes
09/26/2018 at 2:30 PM (EDT)   |  60 minutes This component contains the live event held September 26, 2018. Please test your system prior to accessing this content.
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CEU Credit
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