The Role of the Proximate Principle in the Emergence of Urban Parks in the United Kingdom and in the United States
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Residences located close to urban parks frequently sell at a premium. The increased home values represent a 'capitalization' of a park's value to proximate homeowners and this phenomenon has been termed 'the proximate principle'. The evolution of the principle from squares and gardens in small private estates to large park areas occurred with the development of Regent's Park in London. The proximate principle's dissemination into the new industrial cities of the UK first emerged at Prince's Park in Liverpool, but it was still confined to private developments. Its transition into the public sector occurred with the development of Birkenhead Park. The data showing that Birkenhead Park was potentially a self-financing venture funded by the enhanced value of proximate profits were widely disseminated and provided the financial rationale for many subsequent urban parks in other UK cities. This principle was absorbed by Frederick Law Olmsted on two early visits to Birkenhead Park and incorporated into the design of Central Park in New York City, the first large urban park in the US. Olmsted meticulously documented the impact of Central Park on adjacent property values and demonstrated that the park made a 'profit'. These data were crucial in verifying the legitimacy of the proximate principle and in providing the justification for large urban parks in a host of other US cities. Although these data are nave when viewed through the lens of modern social science, recent studies using sophisticated techniques have confirmed the fundamental legitimacy of the proximate principle.
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