Yerba Buena Children’s Garden | Case Study

Yerba Buena Children’s Garden   |  Case Study

San Francisco | California

The Yerba Buena Children’s Garden is a gem in downtown San Francisco that is major part of Yerba Gardens and sits on the rooftop of Moscone Convention Center. It encompasses 130,000 square feet of outdoor space. A focal point is the Children’s Creativity Museum—an interactive art and technology museum for kids. There’s hand-carved carousel built in 1906 that invites people into the garden and is an attraction itself. A play area has a sand circle, play stream, xylophone and 25-foot tube slide. An outdoor amphitheater is used for youth performances and public events. Indoors are a bowling alley and ice-skating rink. A new tot-lot opens in 2018.

The work of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and its partners transformed the area and the site. Today, Yerba Buena Children’s Garden is a popular urban destination for children of all ages and backgrounds to discover, learn and play

Challenges
  • Develop a proforma for a new management structure and qualified provider to manage, operate and staff the Children’s Garden on behalf of local government agencies.
  • Overcome design limitations that keep the location largely hidden from view from ground level.
  • Establish programs and activities that draw families, school groups and organizations with diverse backgrounds—conducted in a safe, fun and educational environment.
Services Delivered
MJMMG’s work at the Children’s Garden began in 1998 and continues today. Over time, we have provided strategic counsel on design, programming, and management. We continue to provide comprehensive property management services on behalf of San Francisco’s Office of the City Administrator. Services have included:
  • Short and long-term strategic planning for effective site management and maintenance.
  • Placemaking development, including event programming, security, maintenance, and site support, done in coordination with area stakeholders such as Moscone Convention Center, Children’s Creativity Museum, San Francisco Police Department, SFMOMA, Metreon, Yerba Buena Alliance, Yerba Buena Festival and others.
  • Extensive training program for all property staff—from gardeners and ambassadors to performers and security personnel—designed to keep children safe, respond to incidents and convey rules. As part of this effort, MJMMG trains professional performers who play the dual role of activating the park and serving as an extra pair of eyes to keep the location safe.
  • Landscapers were trained to participate in the creation of “learning garden” and subsequent children’s programs—a cost-effective way to create new programs using existing talent and budgets..
  • Revenue collection, reporting, and analytics, including the use of Asset Management Software provides scheduling and costs for capital improvement projects.
  • Program development and marketing, in collaboration with the community, local schools, nonprofits, and the city, to activate public spaces for that appeal to families and children of all ages.
  • Design review of infrastructure, design, and safety for a new tot-lot and a new learning garden.
  • DCollaborative review of the Moscone Convention Center expansion project including architectural, landscaping, design, engineering, and structural plans for safety, programming, events, and maintenance that successfully address requirements of the public realm.
Results
  • MJMMG has managed the property since 2002.
  • Transformed a hidden and inactive location to an urban destination where more than 13,000 children enjoy the play circle each month—a place that became so popular, children had to sign in at the site.
  • The Children’s Garden, within Yerba Buena Gardens, is a financially stable property that generates community traffic and participation because MJMMG continues to develop and deliver innovative programs including:
  • The Learning Garden that teaches up to 200 children a week about gardening and ecology.
  • Insect Education Program where butterflies, worms, and ladybugs are raised and released throughout the year in an engaging and interactive learning activity for children.
  • Daily Story Time where stories are shared with smaller children who visit the play circle.
  • Wishing Tree Time that teaches children interaction and compassion by learning how to make wishes for visitors in the play circle.
  • Circus Skills where children receive free lessons on circus performance techniques throughout the week for visitors of the play circle.
  • Performers trained in safety and emergency response keep the location safe and active in an entertaining fashion that results in a popular urban destination for children, parents, students and school groups.
  • Trained security staff serve as ambassadors to the public, enforce City park code, assist with traffic and crowd control, and oversee closed-circuit TV system and radio dispatch center—efforts that have created a safe place for children to enjoy themselves.
Users of Yelp write:
  • ”One of our new favorite playgrounds, especially Fridays in the summer when the Yerba Buena Garden Festival—Children's Garden Series holds kids shows (puppets, clowns, magic, acrobatics!)”
  • ”I am a Preschool Teacher for a Child Development Center in SoMA so we walk the kids to the playground often. A big climbing structure, a pole, one mini-slippery slide, 2 tunnel slides, and soft rubber floor to run around in... the kids love it :-)!”
  • ”Just a really smart design of form and function. Even the wheelchair ramps on the grounds are beautifully designed.”

“MJMMG creates a magnet that draws people here. ”

Arturo Riera| Yerba Buena Gardens Festival

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