What Makes a Public Space?

DDA Photos 001I receive emails from a company called “Streetscapes” www.streetscapes.biz, that installs outdoor furniture for public spaces and now also consults with cities about public space. Their recent email had some interesting observations about a community that is home to a major university and has many international and local visitors (not us, but like us). The recommendation from Streetscapes is as follows:

1) Create a brand and identity for the public space to broaden its appeal.

2) Install wayfinding signage to position the location at the center of all community activities.

3) Create visual appeal using a combination of color, design and furniture placement to pull people into the space.

4) Generate people-watching activities with game tables, impromptu music and entertainers and photo opportunities for visitors to the area.

5) Develop kid-friendly activities with appropriate parental support elements.

6) Create formal and informal seating areas to accommodate both the office and residential communities and local visitors.

7) Communicate and emphasize the safety of the site with it’s 24 hour on-duty security, security cameras and site lighting to encourage female visitors to the site.

8) Create bike parking zones with bike rack art within the property perimeter to pull cyclists into the space.

In other words, you can’t just declare that a slab of concrete is a park and hope that people will flock to it. This is the big fallacy perpetuated by the so-called Library Green supporters, who want to declare the concrete on top of the Library Lane parking garage as a public park and forego the millions of dollars in continuing tax revenue that the city would have to give up to create it.

It makes more sense to take the kinds of suggestions noted above and work on improvements to Liberty Plaza, a public park within 50 yards of Library Lane, and one that almost everyone agrees is a colossal failure as an urban park.