Maybe you’ve seen them in your hometown, or perhaps you noticed them while traveling through another city. Chances are, when you’ve encountered one, you stopped for a great picture opportunity or just took a moment to get off your feet and take in the surroundings. Scattered around many of the great metropolis and even smaller cities are beautiful places where locals and tourists can co-mingle and share in an appreciation of something that may seem somewhat trivial but is quite functional.
Many cities use quirky and fun public spaces to bring in business. Surrounding communities thrive around places where the community can gather. Even if it’s something as simple as a children’s park, parents can get together and share in that bond of thankless teaching and defending the youngest of our kind. Public spaces promote safety and communion. They allow for unique thoughts and conversations. Many have scheduled events where they can showcase theatrical performances, music, and other artistic renderings. Whatever purpose they serve, a few key ingredients make a public space great!
A great public space leaves little to the imagination and can be easily explored without traveling too far from your original spot. Think of the Taos Historic District in Taos, New Mexico, or Sundance Square in Fort Worth. Sure, there are plenty of shops, galleries, and restaurants to explore, but the entrance to each of those places can be seen from almost anywhere in the area. You can walk from one shop to another clear across the square in Taos and not worry about having to double back for anything you might have missed because it’s just another easy hop away. The same is true for Sundance Square. A great public place makes everything easily accessible to visitors by restricting the size of its space.
Diversity and Inclusion
If you take a look at some of the most extraordinary public spaces in America, you’ll see common themes of inclusion and diversity begin to pop up. Public spaces thrive when they accommodate versatility. A public space serving multiple purposes will have more traffic than a single-use site. When you surround yourself with diversity, you open yourself up to new experiences and create a welcoming sense of community. A public space that feels accommodating is more likely to bring in visitors.
Accommodations shouldn’t stop at culture. Inclusion is just as important as diversity, and accessibility applies to everyone. Some of the most notable public spaces have ramps for wheelchair access, braille maps, and accessible pedestrian signals. Creating a space where everyone can move through it safely and unhindered should be a top priority when planning a new public place.
Most visitors have four basic desires; to shop, eat, socialize, or be entertained. Looking back at our previous examples, both the Historic District in Taos and the Sundance Square check off all these boxes. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from serving various ethnic cuisine. There are galleries to browse and shops to explore. And if it’s time to meet an old friend or make a new one, there are places to sit and converse in the open air or indoors, sipping on a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. These spaces are great because they offer everything a person desires, all in the same place.
While accessibility is a big part of what makes a public space great, safety is also essential. A place where pedestrians can walk freely without worrying about the threat of being injured by a vehicle is appealing to families with small children, the elderly, and those with disabilities. Most town squares have four ways stops or traffic lights at each intersection around the space. The most preferred option is creating a barrier between those visiting the area and those just having to travel around it. If you can’t do that, ensuring traffic is appropriately directed is vital to the visitor’s perspective.
The design of public spaces is critical to their success. Good design should consider factors such as the local climate, the surrounding environment, the space’s history, and the community’s needs. While we should consider versatility and diversity in the design, consistent themes are welcome. People may have difficulty visiting a place that feels too unorganized or doesn’t seem to have cohesion. Creating a space that welcomes diversity ut also has recognizable and distinct elements can help make a public space great.
A great public space should be accessible, versatile, offer amenities, have good design, and prioritize safety. These characteristics help create a thriving, livable community that people feel comfortable revisiting time and time again. Investing in the development of great public spaces can significantly impact a region’s economic and social vitality, making it a valuable investment for local government and economic development organizations. The Amarillo Economic Development Center is here to help cultivate the business community and create ideas to help continue our city’s economic growth. If you have questions or need information on initiating a welcoming environment within your business space, Contact us now to see how we can help your company.