Community and Regional Planning Program


First Advisor

Daniel Piatkowski

Date of this Version



Dietrich, K. (2018). An evaluation of public open space in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Community and Regional Planning, Major: Community and Regional Planning, Under the Supervision Professor Daniel Piatkowski. Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2018

Copyright (c) 2018 Karl Dietrich


Public open space provides many benefits to a downtown area. Among the benefits are economic growth, social connectivity, health, and helping to create an identity for a city. As many cities continue to sprawl outwards, it is important that their downtown areas create a sense of place so that businesses and people stay and visit. Public open spaces can help provide that much needed sense of place. This study examines whether the “public space index” designed by Vikas Mehta (2014) is effective at evaluating public open spaces. This was done by using four public open spaces (Foundation Garden, Tower Square, The Railyard, and Government Square Park) in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, as a case study to test the public space index. Results show that The Railyard was the highest scoring space at 75 out of 100 followed by Foundation Garden with a score of 72 out of 100. Tower Square scored 65 out of 100 and Government Square Park scored the lowest, according to the index, at 61 out of 100. The individual scores were then analyzed and broken down into five aspects: inclusiveness, comfort, safety, meaningful activities, and pleasurability. Finally, individual recommendations were given in order to better enhance these public spaces. By evaluating the spaces in downtown Lincoln, city officials will better understand which spaces are successful and which ones are not. This study will also help urban designers know what aspects are important when designing or redesigning public open space.

Advisor: Daniel Piatkowski