Privately owned public space
A privately owned public space (POPS) is a physical space that, although privately owned, is legally open the public under a city’s zoning ordinance or other land-use law. These spaces are usually created by agreements between cities and private real estate developers, under which the cities grant valuable zoning concessions and the developers include privately owned public spaces in or near their buildings. Privately owned public space commonly include plazas, arcades, through block arcades, small parks, and atriums and exist in many cities worldwide, including New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Seoul, and Toronto. Some cities and advocacy groups have created websites about these spaces (see, for example, apops.mas.org.).
Although the term "privately owned public space" was popularized by Harvard professor Jerold S. Kayden in the 2000 book Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience, written by him in collaboration with the New York City Department of City Planning and the Municipal Art Society of New York, the history of privately owned public space commenced decades earlier when New York City introduced an incentive zoning mechanism in 1961 offering developers the right to build 10 square feet of bonus rentable or sellable floor area in return for one square foot of plaza, and three square feet of bonus floor area in return for one square foot of arcade. Between 1961 and 2000, 503 privately owned public spaces, scattered almost entirely in downtown, midtown, and upper east and west sides of New York City’s borough of Manhattan, were constructed at 320 buildings. More spaces have been added since then. The book noted the quantitative success of the program’s public space production, but found that 41% of these spaces were of “marginal” quality and roughly 50% of buildings with spaces had one or more apparently out of compliance with applicable legal requirements resulting in privatization.
While “privately owned public space” as a term of art refers specifically to private property usable by the public under zoning or similar regulatory arrangements, the phrase in its broadest sense can refer to places, like shopping malls and hotel lobbies, that are privately owned and open to the public, even if they are not legally required to be open to the public.
- Kayden, Jerold S., The New York City Department of City Planning, and The Municipal Art Society of New York. Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience. New York: Wiley, 2000. ISBN 978-0471362579.
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