An American landscape developer gave concrete reasons — dollars and cents chief among them — for St. John's to develop more parks and open spaces in its city plan. 

"Money really does grow on trees," said Randall Arendt, who spoke Tuesday night to people who turned out for the first of a series of consultations on the future of open spaces in St. John's. 

Randall Arendt at St. John's City Hall March 25, 2014

Randall Arendt is an advocate of conservation planning. (CBC)

"There is no question about it. People buy houses more quickly when they are near parks and open space and trails. It's been proven time and again," said Arendt, a conservation development advocate from Maine who was invited by the City of St. John's to speak as the city works on a new master plan that incorporates parks and green spaces.  

Arendt said such spaces bolster the economy on several fronts. 

"It improves a developers' bottom line. Also by the same token, having a mixture of housing types and price points is also very healthy."   

About 100 people attended the public session, part of a series of meetings that attracted attention last week when it appeared the city was prepared to ban the media from covering them. 

Arendt said he was impressed with how St. John's developed the Churchill Square neighbourhood, which is known for a rich canopy of trees. 

Trail network gets high praise

"Churchill Square and Churchill Park, it really did embody the best planning ideas of its time," he said. 

"Since then, things have not been as good, in terms of the resulting development pattern, in my view as a professional planner. It doesn't get much better than Churchill Square – and it's not difficult at all to go back. I think it works for developers and it works for the community. It's twice-green, environmentally and economically."

Arendt also liked the city's walking trail and park network.

"People are invited outside their homes by the parks and the open space and the trails ... and if they don't have parks and open space and trails, there's not much reason for them to leave their homes," he said. 

"So when they get out of their homes, they're outside and they bump into each other and strike up conversations, and that's very, very healthy."

Arendt said some American cities feared that open spaces would attract crime.

"It was just absurd," he said. "The getaway vehicle is not a bicycle or a pair or running shoes — the getaway vehicle is a car."

The City of St. John's will hold more public meetings next week.

 Trace Planning and Design are the consultants assisting the city in developing its master plan.