This paper empirically explores the management of privately owned public space. It examines 163 spaces produced through New York City’s incentive zoning programme, whereby developers provide and manage a public space in exchange for fl oor area ratio (FAR) bonuses. Developers of these bonus spaces employ a variety of management approaches, each correlating with common theories of spatial control in publicly owned spaces. However, as developer priorities are often fi scally driven, most approaches severely limit political, social and democratic functions of public space and produce a constricted defi nition of the public. As such, privately owned public spaces have deleterious effects on concepts of citizenship and representation, even as they become the new models for urban space provision and management.
The notion of a hidden city of social reproduction, suggests that the uneven relations and material practices of social reproduction are respectively hidden and targeted by a neo-liberal urban agenda. A discussion of the public-private Grand Central Partnership in New York City, reveals some of the ways that this agenda is pursued through preservation, and addresses how particular social actors and their activities are removed from view in the interests of ensuring "orderly," "clean," and "safe" public space.
Business improvement districts (BIDs), which are formed when spaces that are legally public are put under private or semi-private forms of administration, have become increasingly prominent features of many cities internationally. This paper provides an in-depth, empirically grounded analysis of the practices of political activism and issue advocacy in one widely admired BID (Church Street Marketplace, Burlington, Vermont) in light of recent theoretical concerns about the decline of ‘public’ space within the current neo-liberal context of privatisation. The paper examines the ways in which various kinds of political activity are constructed by Marketplace management as either assets or liabilities, and how different forms of activism are differentially regulated and policed in pursuit of maintaining the carefully themed environment of the BID. The research raises important questions about the extent to which downtown (and other) spaces that have been (re)organised as BIDs can fulfil the role of public space in democratic societies.
Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development (2006)
Privatized public space reflects a current moment in the ongoing negotiation of the relationship between the state and the market that is a central concern of liberalism. The configuration of this relationship has consequences for the nature of citizenship and democracy in theory and practice. Emblematic of a shift to the privatization of urban public space, California Plaza provides a case by which to examine the multiscalar interests and machinations of the neoliberal state in practice. Exploring the meanings of public and private that are produced by a corporate plaza enables an assessment of how privatized public space helps constitute contemporary citizenship. Institutional and legal frameworks serve as a foundation for the relative publicness of the corporate plaza. Techniques of exclusion and control through design features and security measures exclude errant bodies and regulate the seamlessness of the desired public. At the same time, counter practices indicate the emergence of spaces and subjects that destabilize presumed notions of public and private.
Urban plazas have proliferated in American downtowns during the last decade. This paper examines the private production of open space as a form of privatisation of a public amenity. Using three case studies of plazas built by private capital in downtown Los Angeles, the study examines their development process, design and physical layout, management, control and social uses. It is found that the spaces display characteristics drastically different from those of traditional public places. Certain design cues in combination with stringent control practices are used in these settings to promote the purposes and goals of private enterprise. Characteristics such as introversion, enclosure, protection, escapism, commercialism, social filtering and exclusivity are seen as resulting in environments that are congruent with the private interests but not always beneficial to the general public.
Annals of the Association of American Geographers (1995)
The nature of public space in contemporary society is changing. This paper uses the turmoil over People's Park in Berkeley, California, as a means for exploring changing ideas about and practices in public space. I argue that as public space is increasingly privatized or otherwise brought under greater control, possibilities for democratic action are minimized. To make this claim, I provide a brief outline of the roots of the August 1991 riots at People's Park. I then examine the role that public space plays in modern democracies, and how ideas about public space have developed dialectically with definitions of who counts as "the public." In American democracy, "the public" is constituted by private individuals. In this paper, I suggest that the presence of homeless people in public spaces raises important contradictions at the heart of this definition of "the public." Many commentators suggest that these contradictions have led to "the end of public space" in contemporary cities, or at the very least, the removal of its political functions to the "space" of electronic communication. I examine what this move means for democratic action in the city and show that material public spaces remain a necessity for (particularly) oppositional political movements. This returns us to People's Park, as these were precisely the issues that structured the riots in 1991. I conclude the paper with a sketch of where People's Park and the issues raised by the riots now stand.
Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design (2011)
Németh, J. & Schmidt, S.
Privately owned public spaces are frequently criticized for diminishing the publicness of public space by restricting social interaction, constraining individual liberties, and excluding undesirable populations. This study empirically determines whether, as is commonly believed, privately owned public spaces are more controlled than publicly owned spaces. To frame our empirical work, we propose a conceptual model that identifies publicness as the interaction between the ownership, management, and uses/users of a space. We then examine the management dimension using an observation-based index to assess spatial management paradigms in publicly and privately owned spaces. We find that the use of the private sector to provide publicly accessible space leads to increased control over use, behavior, and access. Furthermore, while both publicly and privately owned public spaces tend equally to encourage public use and access, managers of privately owned spaces tend to employ more features that control behavior within those spaces. More specifically, spatial control in privately owned spaces is normally achieved through the use of surveillance and policing techniques as well as design measures that ‘code’ spaces as private. Important findings are presented for planners, policy makers, and others concerned with the future of publicly accessible spaces.
Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) provide supplemental services to urban commercial corridors using funds from member assessments. They have become a very popular urban revitalization tool, but their formation is still largely unexplained. Theory implies that BIDs will form if they add to aggregate welfare and if the marginal net benefit of membership is positive. I test this for the neighborhood overall and at the BID boundary. Using unique, micro-level and longitudinal data from New York City, I employ survival analysis methods to estimate the likelihood of a neighborhood forming a BID. I then estimate the likelihood of the marginal property’s BID membership by comparing the characteristics of properties located immediately inside and outside of the BID boundaries. I find that BIDs are more likely to form when there is more commercial space over which the BID benefits can be capitalized and when there is homogeneity in service and spending preferences across properties. BIDs also tend to form in neighbor- hoods that possess signs of appreciation and growth. Generally, BIDs are more likely to form in neighbor- hoods with higher valued properties with the exception of very wealthy areas. The BID boundary, however, is comprised of relatively less valuable properties.