If you were to design a park in order to be absolutely sure that nobody – no families, no lonely people, no artists, no Frisbee throwers and especially no poor people – would ever linger or use it as anything other than an attractive sidewalk between office buildings and the Taft Museum, what would it look like? Would it look like this?
This is the new design created by the Cincinnati Park Department after one-on-one discussions with executives from Western & Southern Financial regarding their plan to convert the Anna Louise Inn into a luxury hotel and adjoining restaurant.
Neighbors in my condominium started to attend Park Department public meetings about the Lytle Park renovation almost ten years ago. They expressed their concerns on the importance of a central green space to increase the physical and social flexibility of the park.
This is how the new design measures up in terms of the non-landscaped lawn:
Existing Lytle Park: Hardscape 36,548 SF Planting 18,654 SF Lawn 73,105 SF – 91,759 SF of landscape
Original 2008 MP: Hardscape 42,646 SF Planting 36,515 SF Lawn 48,157 SF – 84,672 SF of landscape
2015 MP Update: Hardscape 47,154 SF Planting 61,082 SF Lawn 19,568 SF – 80,650 SF of landscape
After taking public concerns into consideration the Park Department has reduced the open lawn space by 73.23%. There’s a big increase in hardscape (that’s what we call pavers, I guess). And plantings have more than tripled.
Where will moms spread a blanket on a pretty spring day while they watch their kids play?
Where will dads go to teach their boys how to toss a ball?
Where will they put the tables for a Dinner in White?
Where’s the lightweight, movable furniture for friends to gather and talk – or that can be moved into place for a story-telling event under the stars – or to listen to a little jazz trio do their thing?
Where’s the bocce court? Or the chess boards?
Where will the dogs play?
Where’s the jungle gym and slides, the kinds of fun, imaginative stuff they’ve been putting into the new parks down by the river?
Where’s the outdoor reading room and the public art?
And where the heck is our herb garden???? The one the neighborhood has been planting and taking care of for years? (note: my neighbor showed me there is room for the herb garden in the new design! – see below)
What would ever attract anybody who doesn’t live or work here to spend any time in this park?
For the first couple of years after my husband and I moved into our condo at Park Place at Lytle, I would occasionally see people who weren’t rich sitting in the park. There was one man in particular I used to talk to on a regular basis as he listened to baseball games on a small transistor radio. Then one night a couple of cops on bicycles flashed across my path in the dark as I was out for a stroll. My friend was taking a leak over in the bushes and it was almost like somebody had been waiting for it to happen. The next afternoon he waved to me as he walked across the Purple People Bridge on his way to Kentucky and that was the last time I ever saw him. I haven’t seen the ladies from the Anna Louise Inn for a long time either, not since an agreement was reached to sell their building.
The new and improved Lytle Park is not for everybody. In fact, it’s more of a stage set than a real park. It will look nice from the window of a hotel room or an office tower. It will be safe. It will be clean. But this park as it is currently designed doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of bringing real people together in meaningful ways to share experiences and create community, because this park is not really designed to be used.