Rosa Parks Circle is one of the ‘great public spaces’ in US


Rosa Parks Circle is a city-owned plaza in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. Courtesy City of Grand Rapids

A national association of planners considers Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids to be one of the “great public spaces” in the country.

The American Planning Association, or APA, recognized Rosa Parks Circle as one of five Great Public Spaces this year as part of its annual Great Places in America awards program.

The Great Places in America program recognizes streets, neighborhoods and public spaces in the U.S. that demonstrate exceptional character, quality and planning — attributes that enrich communities, facilitate economic growth and inspire others around the country.

Rosa Parks Circle was designed in 1999 by artist Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

A likeness of Rosa Parks, commissioned in 2007, greets visitors at the foot of the circle.

The plaza is often used as a location for free music events and is converted into an ice-skating rink in the winter.

“Rosa Parks Circle is a great success story of partnerships that invested in public space and community efforts to activate the park through diverse programming,” said David Marquardt, director, City of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation. “This public space contributes greatly to the vibrancy and identity of our community. We love Rosa Parks Circle and are honored to see it nationally recognized.”

The City of Grand Rapids will celebrate the Great Public Spaces designation on Oct. 28 with a full-day celebration, featuring music, dancing and free community activities.

The APA also designated the four other sites as Great Public Spaces this year:

Mill Creek Linear Park, Bakersfield, California
County Home Complex, Greenville, North Carolina
Market Square, Knoxville, Tennessee
San Angelo River Walk, San Angelo, Texas

For the fourth year, members of the public can suggest their favorite public space, neighborhood or street to earn a People’s Choice designation.

Throughout October, individuals can offer suggestions via APA’s social media channels. The APA will select five finalists that the public can vote on via its website. The People’s Choice winner will be announced in early November.

Since launching the Great Places in America program in 2007, the APA has recognized 275 neighborhoods, streets and public spaces around the country.

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