Fixing Up Public Spaces On The Cheap

The renovation of large public spaces requires the investment of financial and human resources that may not be possible in all communities or justified for all public spaces. However, the “lighter, quicker and cheaper” approach advocated by the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) is an affordable way to start bringing life back to neglected public spaces, with a great example being “The Porch” outside of Philadelphia’s train station.

The strategic placement of some free, moveable seating, where people can gather to chat, play a game of cards, eat lunch or people watch, may be a good starting point.

This might not strike you as an intellectual bombshell,” William H. Whyte liked to say, “but people like to sit where there are places for them to sit.”

Buy a few affordable tables and chairs and maybe an umbrella or two at the local hardware store, and give some thought to the caveats listed by PPS in its “A Primer on Seating.” Locate seating within view of the action, but out of the way of the flow of pedestrian traffic; cluster it near amenities that attract people and activity; provide a choice of seating options; and know how to minimize vandalism. Do all of this with the goal of creating a socially comfortable space that facilitates spontaneous social interactions and activities.

Do you want to test this idea and bring some creativity to your Main Street at the same time? Sept. 21 is PARK(ing) Day, an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and everyday folks transform metered parking spots into temporary public spaces. “The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated and to improve the quality of urban human habitat, at least until the meter runs out! Check out the PARK(ing) Day website. It could be a fun event for your Main Street.

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