Environment

Do You Have Any Idea How Much Green Spaces in Cities Are Actually Worth?

Urban green spaces are critical to our health and emotional well-being.

Photo Credit: Jacek Chabraszewski/Shutterstock

The preservation of the environment is a growing concern for people all over the world, with issues surrounding the loss of urban green spaces, rising pollution and the ongoing wellbeing of citizens now at the forefront of a global debate.

"The loss of urban green space in compact city environments during the densification of cities is now a major challenge," said researchers of a study by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. "The loss of urban green space is rarely matched by the addition of more green space, potentially damaging the social value of these areas for decades to come."

Yet, from New York to Singapore, the world's great cities are now placing heightened importance on new and existing green spaces with sustainable urban planning, with the hope of protecting their futures.

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The first municipal parks were established in Europe in the late 1840s. Ever since, there has been an emphasis on preserving these important communal areas that, in most cases, are open to the public free of charge. For example, New York’s Central Park was established in 1857, and it has become an iconic landmark and tourist destination that attracts over 40 million visitors each year.

How does green space benefit us?

The benefits of green urban spaces are far-reaching, and they offer excellent opportunities for social and recreational activities, helping us embrace mindfulness while benefiting the health of entire communities.

"While details of urban green space design and management have to be sensitive to local geographical and cultural conditions, the need for green space and its value for health and well‐being is universal," the World Health Organization concluded in 2016.

In the same report, WHO listed numerous benefits of promoting these spaces:

  • Enhanced physical activity
  • Reduced exposure to air pollution
  • Reduced obesity
  • Improved functioning of the immune system
  • Reduced mortality

The governments of other, younger cities, such as sprawling Beijing and Tokyo, are now retroactively placing more emphasis on their urban planning and development—promoting proper use of precious urban green spaces, like those outlined by WHO, to benefit their citizens.

What is our green space worth?

Of course, with parks and green spaces situated in densely populated cities, there will be other parties, such as commercial developers, who might want to build over this public space at the first opportunity.

To work out the hypothetical land value of some of the most iconic urban parks in the most desirable cities around the world, we used the current cost of living data from Numbeo and this simple formula:

Average Price per sq/m of an Apartment (City) x Size sq/m (Park) = Price of Park in Billions (£)

By taking the average square meter cost of an apartment in a city and multiplying it by the size of any green space in that same city, we can work out a suggested minimum value of these parks from around the world.

At $12204.95 per square meter and 4,046,856 square miles in size, San Francisco's Golden Gate Park would fetch $49.4 billion if the land were sold off. On the East Coast, if authorities in New York sold Central Park to developers, they would recoup at least $48.7 billion.

While these locations come out on top, they wouldn't be the most expensive place to buy land. If Hong Kong's Kowloon Park were 30 times larger, a similar size as Golden Gate Park, that land would be worth over $97 billion.

Moreover, once you consider that most of the world’s most densely populated cities like New York are full of high-rise skyscrapers made up of many floors, the potential sale value of a 10-story apartment block would be much higher than what’s outlined in the infographic below.

Infographic courtesy Flymo.

 

Alan Davis is a writer who covers green space, sustainability and environmental issues. He is based in Chesterfield, United Kingdom.