Public Space Audit: The Power of Ten

PPS works with stakeholders to identify key existing and potential destinations in a city and works with city and institutional staff, planners, and citizens to evaluate each place. This critique focuses both on existing and potential public spaces. The product is an inventory and rating of the ten most important destinations in a given city.

We look upon these elements as interrelated components of a single place, thereby creating more opportunities for local people and different public entities to jointly create a vision of what’s best for the downtown. How can the street, park, library, and businesses support and strengthen each other? What do business owners, library employees, and residents envision for the area? By actively observing and listening to the people who live or work or play in the area, the answers to what the place needs will become apparent.

Placemaking Workshops

PPS uses its Placemaking approach to facilitate an overall vision to guide specific strategies for creating public spaces in the downtown. To develop a vision, PPS starts by conducting workshops that tap into the creativity and resources of potential stakeholders and constituents. These workshops are structured around PPS’ unique Place Evaluation, a participatory process in which issues of concern are identified, solutions from other communities are demonstrated and community-based ideas for improvement are generated on-site. The process results in a unique local vision for downtown. And by building community ownership in the project and identifying resources and support from local institutions through this engagement process, a forum is provided for public and private sector representatives to work together on creating useful programs and setting up the groundwork for effective implementation.

Public Space Program and Activity Plan

Working in an open process with municipal agencies, constituents, stakeholders, and partners, PPS creates a detailed program and a layout and plan for the activities that will occur in the public spaces within the downtown. The program includes specific recommendations about where to locate the activities and how they should relate to each other. The product is a written description accompanied by diagrams, and/or a PowerPoint presentation.

Conceptual Design Plans

Conceptual design plans can be developed to build on the Program and Activity Plan with greater detail that will move the activity plan a step closer to reality. More information is provided concerning the types and placement of amenities, the use of public art, development of specific focal points, ground floor building connections, and street and sidewalk design treatments that will help to integrate the spaces around the civic center into the surrounding area. A conceptual design plan is not a construction document, but can be used to guide final design and construction documents.

Development of Management Plans

Imagine, for instance, a park bordered on one side by a commercial street and on another by a public library. These urban elements work together to form a single place, yet in a typical downtown that area would likely be managed by a number of public entities. Instead of a unified approach to the place, several different city agencies employ a piecemeal approach, each operating within the boundaries of its professional discipline.

We have learned from our 30 years of experience that the management is responsible for 80% of the success of most public spaces. PPS can act as a resource in developing public space management strategies to sustain the activity, comfort, and safety of downtowns over the long term.

Master Planning

Great downtowns fill cities with life. You can tell a city is healthy if it has a vital downtown full of public activity. In our work for downtowns, PPS helps spark revitalization by finding ways for this vitality to emerge. Our Placemaking approach goes beyond the typical downtown master planning process: It enables city staff as well as residents to focus on improving the places that are most important to them and build a planning framework around key actions. The process rejuvenates downtowns and catalyzes improvements by both the public sector and its private partners.