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Balboa Park Named One Of Nation's 6 Great Public Spaces

A fountain in front of the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.
Katie Schoolov
A fountain in front of the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.

Balboa Park in San Diego was designated by the American Planning Association Thursday as one of the nation's six great public spaces in conjunction with National Community Planning Month.

The American Planning Association cited the 1,200-acre park's variety of uses, with a zoo, museums, performance areas, golf course, dog park and trails. Balboa Park, opened for the 1915 Panama California Exhibition, is celebrating its centennial this year.

Other locations on American Planning Association's Great Places in America list are:


— the Santa Fe Railyard in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a disused rail hub that underwent extensive renovations and now includes a large farmers market, gardens and gathering spaces;

— Hermann Park in Houston, a 445-acre attraction adjacent to Rice University that's much like Balboa Park in that it includes a zoo, museums and other amenities;

— Flint Farmers Market in Flint, Michigan, a 110-year-old operation that serves residents of the economically disadvantaged downtown area;

— Millenium Park, Chicago, a 24.5-acre area that serves as an urban gathering spot on what used to be in what the American Planning Association called an "industrial wasteland;" and

— Pearl Street Mall, Boulder, Colorado, a four-block commercial area more than 100 years old.


"Public spaces are essential as gathering places and recreational venues in our communities, and designing them to be innovative, multifunctional, and culturally beneficial requires thoughtful collaboration and planning," said American Planning Association President Carol Rhea. "The Great Public Spaces of 2015 illustrate how to effectively create spaces that enhance the lives of residents and visitors alike, and we commend them on this tremendous achievement."

The public will have the opportunity to suggest an additional favorite public space, neighborhood, or street to earn a People's Choice designation, according to the American Planning Association.

During the first half of October, individuals can offer suggestions via American Planning Association's social media channels using the hashtag #greatplaces. American Planning Association will select five finalists, after which the public can visit the organization's website to vote for a favorite.

The "People's Choice" winner will be announced in early November. The American Planning Association said it plans to promote the winner on its website and social media outlets, and will host a local celebration.