Dan Biederman on Unlocking Opportunities: Privately Operated Public Spaces

Dan Biederman on Unlocking Opportunities: Privately Operated Public Spaces
May 3, 2017 Committee for Sydney

Wednesday 3rd May, 2017
Kindly hosted by Brookfield

In the spectacular surrounds of the top floor of the MCA, Committee members were very fortunate to hear from Dan Biederman, a pioneer in the field of privately funded urban and public space management.

Dan has established and overseen the operation of privately operated public spaces, which provide access to open spaces and increased liveability in places where public funds may be scarce.

The model of privately operated public spaces are a great example of innovative placemaking led by the private sector. It’s a model that hasn’t been used a great deal in Sydney, and so it was unsurprising that this event generated a great deal of interest in our membership.

The exemplar of this model is Bryant Park in New York, which Dan spoke about in detail. Bryant Park – one of New York’s premier parks, situated in front of the New York Public Library, was upgraded in the 1980/90s to become one of the city’s most loved spaces. Dan co-founded the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation (BPRC), a business improvement district which was instrumental in the restoration of the park and now manages and operates the park.

Based on a long lease of 35 years, the BPRC operates the park without government funding, using sponsorship and grants to cover the operating costs. This is done through a range of programming and events, which both animate the space and provide a revenue stream. He emphasised the positive role of programs of activities, like ping pong and yoga, rather than costly infrastructure expenses, as an effective way to activate open space.

Aside from the social value in creating a great public space, the restoration of Bryant Park has generated significant value for the businesses and residents in the nearby area. Commercial rental values adjacent to Bryant Park saw a 220% increase following the restoration of the park, versus a 75% increase in the surrounding area (CABE Space Report, Does Money Grow on Trees).

Dan observed that here in Sydney, we could make much more of our public spaces – like Wynyard Park. Dan’s visit to Sydney on this occasion was brief, however he is due to return later this year and we look forward to hearing more of his insights on his next visit.

Our thanks to Carl Schibrowski of Brookfield for hosting us, to David Epstein (Committee for Sydney Board Member) for welcoming our guests and to Michelle Washington of the Office of the Government Architect for providing a vote of thanks.

Dan Biederman is co-founder of Grand Central Partnership, 34th Street Partnership, and Bryant Park Corporation, three Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) operating in midtown Manhattan.