I have always believed that great cities have great parks. A recent visit to Dublin and its two urban parks reminded me or the importance of parks in creating attractive urban places for people of all ages and backgrounds.
St. Stephen's Green
Until 1663 St. Stephen's Green was a marshy common on the edge of Dublin, used for grazing. In that year Dublin Corporation, seeing an opportunity to raise much needed revenue, decided to enclose the centre of the common and to sell land around the perimeter for building. The park was enclosed with a wall in 1664. The houses built around the Green were rapidly replaced by new buildings in the Georgian style and by the end of the eighteenth century the Green was the urban playground for the city's rich and famous. Much of the present day streetscape around the Green comprises modern buildings (some in a replica Georgian style) with very little from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Today St. Stephen's Green is a green oasis for people of all ages and backgrounds in Dublin's bustling city centre. The current park was designed by William Sheppard in 1880. The park is adjacent to one of Dublin's main shopping streets, Grafton Street, and to a shopping centre named for it, while on its surrounding streets are the offices of a number of government office and the city terminus of one of Dublin's LUAS tram lines. At 22 acres, it is the largest of Dublin's Georgian garden squares, others include nearby Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam Square.
St. Patrick's Cathedral Park
Parade of Writers
Another fun element of the park an area set aside to recognize the tremendous contribution made by writers who have lived in Dublin. It is truly amazing that one city could be the home for so many influential writers over such a long period of time.
I am not sure if anyone has done the study, but I expect there is a direct correlation between the quality and quantity of urban parks and the vibrancy of the City's City Center. Think New York's Central Park, Vancouver's Stanley Park or Montreal's Mount Royal Park.