Planters Groves: A Good Thing?


Planters, famous for their peanuts and other snacks, has announced a plan to transform unused land in New Orleans, Washington, D.C., New York City, and San Francisco into “natural, green spaces” called Planters Groves. Interestingly, leading landscape architect Ken Smith, ASLA, has signed on to design these peanut-shaped urban parks made of reclaimed materials and featuring native trees and “plants from the legume family.”  Each park will be designed to blend with the local feel of the city, but will include a well-positioned Mr. Peanut statue on a peanut bench (no joke).

Planters will partner with the Corps Network, which enrolls more than 30,000 urban young people in community service, training, and education, and also has a network of more than 250,000 volunteers across the country. Planters writes: “The Corps Network’s local member Corps will lead the maintenance, ongoing programming and seasonal planting with community partners.” Sally Prouty, president and CEO of the Corps Network, added: “We are excited to be working with Planters, our local member Corps and community partners and believe our work together will serve as a model of public/private partnerships.”

On top of all of this, a “sustainable” biodiesel-fueled Planters “Nutmobile” will be parked at these groves sometimes. Other times, the Nutmobile will drive through 12 cities in an effort to “grow stronger communities through volunteering.”  


An initial assessment of the pros and cons of the Planters Groves:

Pros:

  • Cities get new parks filled with native trees and plants, which can serve as a showcase of sustainable landscape best practices.  
  • The parks will be designed for public use and it sounds like will eventually be turned over to the city governments.
  • The model may demonstrate that private firms and community groups can successfully come together to redevelop urban land.
  • Those young volunteers may learn something about landscape architecture and remediating brownfield sites.

Cons:

  • Public spaces are being over-the-top “branded” by a private company, further blurring the lines between private and public domains.
  • The parks will have an over-arching peanut theme. A visitor may need to enjoy peanuts to enjoy this park.
  • It’s not clear whether Planters will make a long-term investment in the upkeep and maintenance of these parks. Does the city take on this expense? Who owns the park?
  • Does this model ensure that urban redevelopment and revitalization serves the public? Was there community input in their siting and design?

Add your thoughts below on this sure-to-be controversial project.

Image credit: Planters

20 thoughts on “Planters Groves: A Good Thing?

  1. Richard Hayden 02/25/2011 / 10:21 am

    Outstanding! Most of you folks probably don’t remember the bagel garden created by Martha Schwartz way back when. A little whimsy can go a long way; so get over yourselves.

    So what’s wrong with this? These un-used, abandoned properties finally get some attention. Chicago has tens of thousands of these properties left over after the fires in the aftermath of the 1960’s.

    Quite frankly, we need more of this kind of corporate partnerships to help cities create the improvements that are needed but beyond the budgets. Capitalism can be green!

  2. Ron 02/25/2011 / 10:36 am

    To offset this just being a “Planters” brand, lets have a sculpt off featuring the Peanuts comic strip characters. That would delight all generations. And it’s so American.
    What also makes this so a propos is one of the Charlie Brown TV specials was all about Arbor Day and Charlie’s sister, Suzy plants a tree right in the middle of the pitcher’s mound so symbolic that there is more to outdoor space and activities than sports.
    R

  3. mlastudentplantlover 02/25/2011 / 11:42 am

    Really exciting! I have to wonder about this particular “con” though: The parks will have an over-arching peanut theme. A visitor may need to enjoy peanuts to enjoy this park.

    Seriously? To enjoy a peanut-themed park one may need to enjoy peanuts? Hopefully that was a joke, because I find it hilarious!

  4. Ken Smith 02/26/2011 / 1:10 am

    Thank you for covering this new urban revitalization project that I’m proud to be a part of. I want to clarify a few points related to the potential cons mentioned in this post.

    First, the branded elements in the design are intended to be subtle and humorous. As for the question of whether Planters will make a long-term investment in the upkeep and maintenance of these parks—the answer is yes. I’ll be working with Planters and The Corps Network on a multi-year campaign to create Planters Groves across the country. Planters and The Corps Network’s local member Corps will lead the maintenance, ongoing programming and seasonal planting with community partners.

    Finally, I’m confident that the Planters Grove program will ensure that these urban revitalization efforts serve the public and be a catalytic agent in the renewal of under served communities. We’ve engaged the community to determine their needs and what uses will be important and beneficial for their community and have incorporated their feedback into the plans for each Planters Grove. Earlier this month, I participated a community meeting in New Orleans to discuss these needs, obtain feedback and share initial designs. We’ll be having several other community meetings in each city.

    I think this type of collaborative project typifies an increasingly common kind of partnership that is occurring in the creation and delivery of public spaces in our contemporary practice. From my observation public projects today are organized and created in a number of innovative ways including those directed by traditional public agencies as well as those that are spearheaded through the initiatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including non-profits, public private partnerships as well as corporate stewards.

    I hope this clarifies some of the questions raised. I’m looking forward to the next steps in this project and appreciate the design community’s support.

  5. Michael SZ 02/28/2011 / 2:40 am

    Wonder if Blue Diamond almonds doesn’t take this sitting down and enters the fray with diamond shaped parks.

    Still curious about the ownership.

  6. Nancy Cooke 03/01/2011 / 10:06 am

    You Said:
    “We’ve engaged the community to determine their needs and what uses will be important and beneficial for their community and have incorporated their feedback into the plans for each Planters Grove. Earlier this month, I participated a community meeting in New Orleans to discuss these needs, obtain feedback and share initial designs.”

    I Say:
    Just because there are many urban areas that are under served does not mean that we want to see peanut-themed park spaces. What if the community feedback you get says “we don’t want the peanut theme”…does that then mean that Planter’s drops the plan to create the space? Of course it doesn’t! So, once again, let the community decide, free of corporate branding and influence, what it wants to see as a green space. There are plenty of funding opportunities for urban revitalization that do not include “peanut” themed park benches and statues. If the maintenance and planting of these spaces are the duty The Corps Network, what happens if funding for them ever dries up? It would be far better, I think, to let urban residents choose and maintain their own green space concepts.

    • Dan Maceda 03/04/2011 / 10:11 am

      “There are plenty of funding opportunities for urban revitalization that do not include “peanut” themed park benches and statues”
      some references to support this comment would be useful

  7. lk 03/01/2011 / 12:37 pm

    Hey–it’s fun! Come on! How worried can you be about corporate branding when it’s just a weird peanut with a hat? At least it’s not Walmart! I love it.

  8. Alan Goodheart 03/01/2011 / 4:08 pm

    As a Landscape Architect, I am convinced that developing parks and open space, by any fair and effective means available, is a great idea. Three caveats though:

    1- Absolutely every plan should have an appropriate public review process of some sort, with authority for final approval.

    2- Peanut (and many other nut and food) allergies are more prevalent than ever. Surely Planters has an obligation to bring this to the attention of all park visitors (in the same subtle manner mentioned by Ken Smith for the “branded” elements).

    3- Even though Planters is making a significant contribution to urban life, it is also important to put a time limit, a reasonably long one, on Planters control of such essential public spaces.

  9. Elle 03/01/2011 / 9:36 pm

    Bad, bad idea to use “plants from the legume family” (e.g. peanuts) in children’s parks! Peanut allergies are on the rise; in fact, rates tripled in the past 10 years. This factor should’ve been listed among the other “cons” you noted. No thanks, Planters!

  10. R. Gus Drum 03/02/2011 / 10:00 am

    Concur with Elle….many children have peanut allergies to the point of respiratory failure…..a child suffering from that allergenic situation wandering into such a park may be in harms way…….use the peanut shape for the design if need be, but avoid the peanuts.

  11. mlastudentplantlover 03/02/2011 / 10:30 am

    Interesting comments about peanut allergies. The article doesn’t say anything about actual peanuts being involved in these parks. The legume family is huge, and besides there are many other plants that people are allergic to. I’m highly skeptical that people may be allergic to the mere idea or shape of peanuts… Seems like a red herring.

    • Kellie 03/03/2011 / 9:20 pm

      In response to mlastudentplantlover: Many people with peanut have allergies that are life threatening and thus peanuts/tree nuts are basically a poison to those folks that are affected. Also, some people allergic to peanuts are allergic to other legumes. No one is allergic to the idea or shape of peanuts, but having a themed park around the peanut theme to someone who is allergic to peanuts is like have a rat poison themed park to those that don’t have or understand food allergies and how serious they are. There is no “red herring”, just some folks who are concerned about those that are allergic to peanuts and how these parks will affect them.

      • mlastudentplantlover 03/05/2011 / 2:35 pm

        I understand and am sympathetic to those with peanut and other food allergies. I don’t mean to sound otherwise.
        I should have clarified my original point, that there are many with asthma, fruit, insect sting, and other severe (life-threatening) allergies related to plants or landscapes that don’t prevent these public sites from including high-pollen trees, fruiting plants, extensive lawns, and bee-loving plants. The peanut-allergy argument is important, but it may present a slippery slope.
        I acknowledge that it may be time to consider all of these allergies in landscape design, and to create new ‘friendlier’ plant palettes. I see this as more of an ‘all or nothing’ issue since it seems unfair to put peanut or any other severe allergy above the others.

  12. Matt Fridell 03/02/2011 / 10:56 am

    This is a great idea! I would love to see us have a discussion on how we could encourage other corporations step up to the plate and serve their communities through the adoption of public parks, public spaces and long term financial commitment that maintain these spaces. I might like beer nuts more than peanuts – how about a Beer Nut Garden? How about an Apple Grove? Corporations have their stamp on just about every other major public investment going these days, why not parks? As designers it would be our responsibility to facilitate their presence in our area – hopefully we can do it with light hearts, some common sense and an understanding of what is appropriate for public spaces.

    This type of project could be a great studio project for students. It digs into a lot of issues we deal with – limited municipal parks budgets, public perception of public space, long term commitments to the places we build and so on.

  13. Prosend 03/02/2011 / 1:23 pm

    More theme parks we don’t need. I just hope it doesn’t start a trend of themed parks. Like the painted staues (dogs, library books, cows etc) that are prevalant everywhere.

    I like the concept in a limited sense, but am weary of overbranding at this point. Will the future hold any spaces that won’t innundate us with marketing, imploring us always to buy, buy, buy?

  14. Holly@HM-2 03/04/2011 / 10:02 am

    Let’s see a park for an under served population with a Peanut Statue on the bench or…an empty lot gathering trash?? hmm…

    Reality is that cities do not have the funds to create these spaces and private companies have marketing budgets. With tasteful design guidance, this public-private collaboration benefits Planters, Cities, and most importantly the people in the area.

  15. Dan Maceda 03/04/2011 / 10:17 am

    Who is the contact for DC?.
    I used to work for Standard Brands and spend some time back in the sixties in Wilkes Barre PA the home of Planters Peanuts.
    I think it’s a great idea.

  16. Mark L. Johnson 03/15/2011 / 10:58 am

    I think our old friend F.L. Olmsted might be a little repulsed by this kind of idea for public space. But, most of our resort public-oriented spaces (whether corporate, private, or government) have not pursued the subtly and delicacy of the landscapes that Olmsted promoted. What happened to the call for a sense of place in our communities? And to rebut myself, would I find it okay, if there was a cross instead of a Mr. Peanut in each park? I trust Ken will pull off some great design work that will pursue Olmstedian taste more than Disneyesque. Much will depend upon the intended user groups. Kids will probably love Mr. Peanut.

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