8 Great Cost-Conscious Landscapes

Curated by Landscape Architecture Foundation

While newly developed landscapes can sometimes require an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars, there are also many examples of landscape architects using pragmatic strategies to deliver impactful results on a smaller budget. These parks and public spaces, ordered from least to most expensive but all with a cost of under $4.5 million, exemplify the capacity of landscape architects to significantly reduce construction and ongoing maintenance costs of exemplary, sustainably designed sites while supporting cost-effective decision-making and policy. 

  1. Case Study Brief


    Baltimore, Maryland

    “Novel and cost-effective approaches to space activation during the construction phase for long-term development are made possible by landscape architects. Sandlot was created as a pop-up public space during the first phase of a 7-year development on Baltimore's Inner Harbor and features a restaurant serving local food and a 'beach' complete with sand for recreation and relaxation. This unique approach to activating a space during construction generated $677,110 in construction costs, supported a local restaurant, created jobs, and allowed for recreational public access to the Harbor on land that otherwise would have sat vacant for seven years. Designers kept construction costs low for this pop-up site by using pallets for some site furnishings, which can be replaced and upgraded over time as the site transitions into a permanent public park. ”
  2. Case Study Brief


    Erie Street Plaza

    Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    “Material choices by landscape architects can have a significant impact on overall project costs. This small plaza at the confluence of the Milwaukee River and the Federal Channel was designed to provide engaging civic space on a former brownfield along the Milwaukee Riverwalk in Wisconsin. The design team executed a cost-effective design as part of value engineering by reducing paved area in favor of vegetated surfaces. Community feedback can also help landscape architects determine where to prioritize cost reduction. Local feedback sessions led to the replacement of the originally proposed bamboo plantings in steam pits with poplars, which do not require steam pits. ”
  3. Case Study Brief

    Samford Park_After

    Samford Park at Toomer's Corner

    Auburn, Alabama

    “Sometimes spending a little extra on a small site is critical to a project's goals. This celebrated 1-acre park on Auburn University's campus in Alabama lost its two historic 150-year-old live oaks when a fan from an opposing football team applied a lethal dose of systemic herbicide. The iconic nature of the oaks called for a little more expense–the installation of 2 large, 30-foot replacement oaks. Even with this expense, the renovation of the park cost under $1 million and significantly improved the park, which serves as a gateway between the downtown and Auburn's campus, with seating, an enhanced threshhold, and stormwater infrastructure. ”
  4. Case Study Brief

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    Denver, Colorado

    “In order to compete with other Denver developments and ensure reasonable rents for tenants during an economic recession, the landscape architect for this mixed-use development was required to reduce landscape costs dramatically while still providing an evocative and functional outdoor space for residents and employees. The landscape is an essential element of the site because it accommodates drainage with surface swales and rain gardens, which was an alternative to the previously considered major expense of raising the building's finished floor elevation by 4 feet to create positive drainage. Landscape construction costs were also reduced by around $2.55 million through the landscape architect's creative approaches to eliminating curb and gutter infrastructure, seeding the site with native species, and using recycled materials. ”
  5. Case Study Brief

    Uptown Normal Circle and Streetscape

    Normal, Illinois

    “Landscape architects design to control maintenance costs over time, which is particularly important for clients like small towns operating on limited budgets. A classic example of smart street improvement, this traffic-calming public space features a functional and interactive stormwater feature that forms a new 'town green' for Normal, Illinois. The relatively low construction cost of the circle has been complemented by continued cost savings over time through strategies like installing tree wells for long tree life, removal of traffic signals, implementation of gravity-fed fountain systems, use of low-irrigation native plantings, and the recycling of an unused storm main.”
  6. Case Study Brief


    West Point Foundry Preserve, Phase 1

    Cold Spring, New York

    “The forethought that landscape architects can provide is critical for phased projects. The creation of a preserve to allow public access and enjoyment of this former Civil War foundry and tidal marsh included the renovation of a historic brick structure. While the renovation of the building was slated for a later phase due to budget limitations, the landscape architect recognized that the bridge used to access it would need to be renovated as well. They recommended that the bridge be renovated in Phase 1 to create access to the building and minimize further disturbance to completed areas in future phases. This approach was effective in that it provided access and reduced potential costs for future phases while providing a scenic overlook of the brook for visitors. ”
  7. Case Study Brief


    William G. Milliken State Park, Phase 2 Lowland Park

    Detroit , Michigan

    “Investment in exemplary landscape architecture spurs larger-scale economic development for cities. This large Detroit park's multidisciplinary team took a lower-cost approach to remediating a brownfield site by capping it rather than removing soils while providing a significant public amenity along the Detroit River. Significantly, the park was also conceived as an catalyst for investment in Detroit - the stormwater storage and treatment capacity of the site's wetlands manages stormwater for adjacent parcels awaiting development. ”
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