The Future of Downtown Parks and Public Spaces

Sunday Seminar

In these increasingly disruptive and divisive times, many of our downtowns have lost their former vitality as people continue to work remotely more often than before the pandemic. The growing visibility of unhoused people in many downtowns is also changing perceptions about public safety. Yet downtown public spaces continue to be highly utilized for bringing community together, and the pandemic only served to reinforce their value as a refuge from the stressors of daily life.

Join our Sunday Seminar for a discussion of how our parks and public spaces can evolve to meet changing economic, environmental, and social conditions in our downtowns. Among other questions, we will explore:

  • How would the possible conversion of commercial real estate to more mixed-use development create new opportunities?
  • How can we design them to function as green infrastructure to make our cities more resilient?
  • How can we program them to be more inclusive of people who live throughout the city, address past injustices, and create a more equitable present?
  • What kinds of partners and stakeholders need to be involved, and in what roles?
  • What are the appropriate governance models?


  • Identify the challenges facing downtowns and public spaces in the wake of the pandemic and how these challenges have impacted the economic, environmental, and social conditions.
  • Recognize the potential benefits and drawbacks of converting commercial real estate to more mixed-use development and how it could create new opportunities for public spaces.
  • Analyze the potential benefits of designing public spaces as green infrastructure to make cities more resilient and how these spaces can be programmed to be more inclusive.
  • Identify stakeholders who need to be involved in public space development and the appropriate governance models that can help create a more equitable and sustainable future.
  • Discuss strategies for addressing past injustices and creating more inclusive and accessible public spaces.


Owen Harrang

Management and Operations Advisor, Waterfront Park, Seattle Center

Jennifer Casillas

VP, Public Realm & Ambassador Operations, Downtown Seattle Association

Gideon Berger

Program Director, City Parks Alliance

Nina Coveney

Senior Project Manager, Biederman Redevelopment Ventures

Katie Bassett

Vice President of Parks, Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority

Tara Green

Principal of Public Realm Strategies, OJB Landscape Architecture

Monica Haugen

Center City Parks Activation, Seattle Parks & Recreation Department

Lara Rose

Principal, Walker Macy