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Partnerships Lab

The Institute is helping park organizations with a new and expansive annual program: the Partnerships Lab. The Institute is partnering with eight local and national organizations to build their own capacities to plan, develop, and maintain great public places. These partnerships will last one year for New York City organizations and six months for national groups.

The primary goals of the Partnerships Lab are to identify the long-term visions of these organizations, define their distinct structural challenges, and develop strategies to overcome those challenges. To accomplish this, the Institute provides resources including staff time, technical expertise, external advising, and access to a broad network of urban park professionals.

Applications for the 2020-2021 Partnerships Lab will be available in April 2020.

2019-2020 Partnerships Lab participants

National program

Balboa Park

Balboa Park Conservancy - Balboa Park (San Diego, CA)

Balboa Park Conservancy partners with the City of San Diego to advocate for the greater good of Balboa Park, and provides resources and expertise for park improvement, placemaking, visitor services, and volunteers. The Conservancy currently works on a project-by-project basis with the City of San Diego. After a series of successful initiatives, the Conservancy seeks to strengthen and define this partnership — clarifying roles, authority, and accountability — to better serve Balboa Park and its millions of annual visitors.

Austin Alliance

Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation - Republic Square (Austin, TX)

In 2015, after a decade of working to improve the historic Republic Square, the Downtown Austin Alliance — along with the Austin Parks Foundation and the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department — created the city’s first public-private park partnership to renovate Republic Square. As the long-term managing partner of the park, the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation seeks to develop a stakeholder engagement and implementation strategy in order to create a purposefully inclusive, diverse, meaningful, and loved space by all of Austin.

Forest Park

Forest Park Conservancy - Forest Park (Portland, OR)

Through volunteer stewardship and park restoration efforts, Forest Park Conservancy — in partnership with the City of Portland — enhances the ecological health and sustainability of the 5,200-acre Forest Park, an urban wilderness experience all within city limits. Forest Park Conservancy seeks to develop a stakeholder engagement strategy in collaboration with communities of color and traditionally underserved communities, and identify physical and cultural barriers and programming needs that are culturally relevant for each community.

Parks and People

Parks & People Foundation - Baltimore parks (Baltimore, MD)

Parks & People Foundation, founded in 1984, concentrates on improving and activating Baltimore parks and green spaces in partnership with Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, cross-sector partners, and communities. The Foundation seeks to study park operations frameworks to identify potential options for Baltimore including optimum staff size and structure for park maintenance; systems that integrate and support park improvements and maintenance led by nonprofit partners and friend groups; and appropriate standards for maintenance to be used by professional and volunteer stewards.

Public Space Planning Unit - Detroit

Public Space Planning Unit, City of Detroit - City of Detroit parks (Detroit, MI)

The City of Detroit owns and operates 311 parks, spanning approximately 4,000 acres throughout the park system. A 2013 mayoral mandate closed all but 19 parks. Currently, the Parks and Recreation Division has reopened 261 parks. Over the past three years, the Division enhanced park maintenance services, launched a 10-year capital improvement program, and leveraged philanthropic and grant funding for support. The City is also planning for a 31.5-mile majority off-road greenway. The Public Space Planning Unit, a unit within the Parks and Recreation Division, seeks to develop a comprehensive corporate donor strategy, continuing on the heels of recent local stakeholder engagement to increase long-term financial sustainability for the parks and greenways encompassed in its system.

New York City program

Flushing Meadows

Alliance for Flushing Meadows Corona Park - Flushing Meadows Corona Park (Queens)

The Alliance for Flushing Meadows Corona Park is a four-year-old organization that supports the management and operation of Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The organization seeks to create a long-term board development plan in order to establish a strong backbone for the organization; strategically grow its fundraising capabilities; and support NYC Parks in providing consistent, ongoing support to the largest park in Queens.


Gowanus Canal Conservancy - Gowanus Lowlands, a network of parks and public spaces centered on the Gowanus Canal (Brooklyn)

The Gowanus Canal Conservancy, founded in 2006, advocates and cares for ecologically sustainable parks and public spaces in the Gowanus Lowlands, while empowering a community of stewards. The organization seeks to develop a comprehensive communications strategy to more effectively engage city agencies, elected officials, and the community as they advocate for, build, and maintain an expanded network of parks and open spaces.

Van Cortlandt Park

Van Cortlandt Park Alliance - Van Cortlandt Park (The Bronx)

In 2019, two long-time organizations that supported Van Cortlandt Park merged into one new organization known as the Van Cortlandt Park Alliance. The new nonprofit seeks to create a board development plan that will lay the groundwork for a superior stewardship organization that can preserve, support, and promote the recreational, ecological, and historical value of Van Cortlandt Park, New York City’s third largest park.

Interested in applying for the 2020-2021 Partnerships Lab? Join our mailing list to find out about upcoming application dates.