In the studies of public space redevelopment, property ownership has been a central field that attracts scholars’ attention. However, the term “privatization” is usually used as a stand-in for a more general process of exclusion without an examination of the nature of property itself. While taking the universality of law for granted, few studies show how that universality is built out of particular spaces and particular times, and thus hardly explain the existence of counterexamples.
This dissertation argues that the counterexamples and theoretical inconsistencies are a theoretical gap in current public space privatization studies; this gap is created by the metaphorical understanding of public space ownership. This dissertation comprehensively answers how property transfer shapes the production of public space. It emphasizes the significance of social and historical contexts in understanding the meaning of property ownership. It follows the theoretical framework of Lefebvre and Pierson as well as Lefebvre’s methodology of spatial dialectic.
The case in this dissertation is the history of Patriots Park, Phoenix, Arizona from 1976 to 2007. Public records, archives and governmental plans, historical newspapers and online essays, second-hand interviews, speech transcripts and transcripts of interviews are four main sources of this dissertation. This dissertation develops a new framework to understand the meaning of public space ownership through both the initial construction of planning ideology and the spatial evolution through practice and perception, which can more comprehensively and consistently interpret the different outcomes of different public space property transfer.