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What makes a great public space?

Photo credit: Don J. Usner

If you ask urban planners, great public spaces have a lot in common ... even though one of those things is that each is unique! This year, the folks at the American Planning Association used some common criteria to decide on its annual list of "Great Places in America." Santa Fe Railyard Park and Plaza—created with help from The Trust for Public Land—is among the winners. We couldn't be more proud.

Before it was a designer darling, the Railyard looked like it might be nearing the end of the line. The decline of train travel in the 1980s left many of the site's historic buildings empty. Developers eyed the vacant property for demolition, but neighbors saw the potential for more: a mixed-use gathering place, one that would celebrate the spirit of the Southwest and provide the city with the central park it was missing. 

The Trust for Public Land helped acquire land for the city and guide a community design process that saw more than 6,000 people contribute ideas and feedback. The result? A standout city park that's the very definition of great place. 

How would you define a great public space? Is the difference in the landscaping? The art? The location? We're always curious to hear your take: leave us a comment here or join us on Facebook

Get the full story on the making of the Santa Fe Railyard Park and Plaza in the spring/summer 2009 issue of Land&People magazine. 

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