Pocket Parks

A pocket park (also vest-pocket park or mini-park) is a small park accessible to the general public created on small and/or irregularly shaped parcels of land. They also may be created as part of a large building project.

Benefits & Problems Addressed

Increased property values: Small parks can raise property values by adding an amenity or repurposing an otherwise blighted lot.

Increased green space: Landscaped pocket parks add greenery and are particularly valuable in urban areas with high property values. Parks can be designed to handle stormwater runoff and provide shade to ease urban heat island effects.

Access to parks & green space: Sprinkling parks throughout a city increases neighbors’ access to open and green space.

Tips & Techniques

Pocket parks themes: Depending on size, climate and user groups, parks can be primarily use for active uses (small scale fitness equipment), passive use (no programming), public art showcase, green space and trees. Most pocket parks include access, lighting and seating.

Sites for pocket parks: Work with GIS to identify vacant public and private lots. Also consult with parks and GIS to determine whether pocket parks can increase access in areas with little green and open space. Check site plan approval guidance to see if a pocket park can be a component of larger development projects. In some cities, mini-parks are sited within plazas or other parks to diversify uses. Philadelphia, PA US connects with tax lien sales.

Users: In general, pocket park users mainly live and work in the immediate area, so get data on various populations. If near offices, design seating for lunching workers. 

Other design considerations:  Because most patrons are within walking distance, sidewalks and entraces are more important than parking. Parks surrounded by buildings will need better signage and lighting given the narrow frontage. Parks with streets on two sides increases access and visibility. Parks with fountains and foliage can attract wildlife, which can be deliberate or discouraged.

Maintenance: While low impact, these small parks still need maintenance. Because they can be tucked into the landscape, lighting and safety are important.

Hot Buttons: Public access to pocket parks on private property; ensuring maintenance; using pocket parks to patch access to larger, higher quality green space.


Pocket Parks: Alison Blake

Pocket Park Project: Mayor of London, GB, UK

Image: Flickr/Mack Male