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A technical drawing of a proposed park design.

‘Park Within a Park’ to Spark Economic Development and New Housing in Escondido

It may seem odd for a conservation group to be promoting economic development, but the Conservancy is doing just that in its recently proposed preliminary design to build a new park along Escondido Creek within Grape Day Park. The proposed project will spark economic development while creating new green space for the enjoyment of Escondido residents and visitors.  Enhancing economic development is key to kick-starting restoration of the creek in Escondido, and new development along a restored creek will provide new opportunities for people to live in a safe, vibrant, healthy, and walkable Escondido.

In 2017, the Conservancy won a planning grant from the State of California, the goal of which was to develop a preliminary design for a project in Grape Day Park that would reduce pollution in Escondido Creek while enhancing the quality of life in communities adjacent to the creek.  A preliminary project design was recently completed by the Conservancy’s engineering consultant CBEC. The design maximizes the project’s ecological benefits, such as improvements to water quality and creation of enhanced park and outdoor space, while also maximizing economic spin-off benefits that come with improved amenities in public spaces.

The design was created after review of pending plans proposed for Grape Day Park including the draft Grape Day Park Master Plan and the People to the Park Plan. It includes many people-friendly elements such as an amphitheater that could also serve as a wedding/special event venue and a boardwalk that will allow the public to meander over the water, which will be slowly moving through a newly created wetland before rejoining Escondido Creek downstream. As the water flows through the new park, it will be cleansed of contaminants that would otherwise pollute the creek and ocean.

The Conservancy also contracted with the economic firm London Moeder to analyze the economic benefits that would occur as a result of the proposed enhancement project. London Moeder’s analysis found that similar waterway restoration projects have had positive effects on communities throughout the nation.  These projects spark economic development as the restored waterways attract residential and associated commercial development. Data show that land near dynamic parks has a greater value than land further away, as people like to live and work near parkland. London Moeder found that the Conservancy’s proposed ‘Park within a Park’ could generate annual revenues from $1.9 million to $7 million, depending on which of two zoning scenarios the City of Escondido pursued. The scenario recommended by London Moeder would involve the city building more housing around Grape Day Park than current zoning laws allow. This would bring more people into Central Escondido, providing more customers for downtown businesses, and also help to address San Diego County’s housing crisis.

The site of the proposed Park within the Park is currently functioning as a parking lot, and the Conservancy is committed to working with the city and community to find alternative parking areas.

The Conservancy is seeking input on the proposed Park with a Park project; watch the video above to see an overview of the preliminary design. The economic study is still being finalized and will be posted when complete.  Please send comments to [email protected].