Proof of Worth

February 1, 2015, Department, by Samantha Bartram

An aerial view of Chicago, Illinois.It’s now a fact so ubiquitous as to become a contemporary axiom: Parks are economic drivers. They attract businesses and professionals looking to relocate. They increase property values and help mitigate certain environmental impacts, such as stormwater runoff. They improve the health and wellness of surrounding communities by providing a place to play and exercise. We know these statements to be true, yet it remains difficult to adequately quantify these effects. The city of Chicago sought to contribute to the field’s body of knowledge related to parks and economic benefits by partnering with the Civic Consulting Alliance, Global Economics Group and Roland Berger Strategy Consultants to determine the impact of Chicago Park District-owned assets on the city’s overall economy. Below, we share some highlights from the 2013 study, which bore out the theory that CPD’s 585 parks indeed have a positive and substantial impact on Chicago’s financial well-being. 


1.5: Percentage boost in value to homes located within two blocks of a park.

$900 million: The total value added to residential properties located within two blocks of a park.

43: Percentage of residential properties located in Chicago that command a higher value because of their proximity to parks.

$1.4 billion: The estimated economic impact of tourism in Chicago’s major parks.

17: Percentage of economic benefits related to tourism that can be attributed to Chicago parks.

25: Percentage of parks under the Chicago Park District umbrella that are considered mini-parks (stand-alone playgrounds roughly one-half acre or less in size that do not typically have any indoor facilities).

35: Percentage of total economic impact on residential property value attributable to such mini-parks.

80: Percentage of total event revenues generated by just two iconic magnet parks in Chicago’s system: Grant Park and Soldier Field, both of which host high-profile events like music festivals and sports tournaments.

$30-150 million: Revenue generated per year by visitors who cite the beauty of Chicago’s parks as the primary driver for their visit.

Source: Chicago Park District Economic Impact Study, 2013.


Samantha Bartram is the Associate Editor of Parks & Recreation magazine.