COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space

Harnessing the Power of Place

Jan 1, 2009
Dec 14, 2017

Cleveland, Ohio

Wade Oval at University Circle

Making the Circle into a Town Square

Wade Oval, a park in the University Circle neighborhood of Cleveland, is surrounded by many of the city's most important cultural institutions, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and the Cleveland Botanical Garden. Nearby are the world-famous Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University and the vibrant Little Italy neighborhood, famed for its restaurants and cafes. Yet only six years ago, there was little interaction between the institutions and Wade Oval, a seven-acre town green that was greatly underutilized.

Wade Oval after its 2003 renovation.

That all changed in 2003 when Wade Oval was renovated. The planning process for the renovation created an opportunity for the institutions to learn more about each other's facilities and programs and to develop a shared vision for the Oval. The institutions now work together on a series of joint events that attract more than a hundred thousand people each year.

These joint events have quickly become key assets for the city's cultural life. Popular events include Parade the Circle, when human-powered floats and costumes designed by local residents fill the circle with inspiring creations, and WOW! (Wade Oval Wednesdays), special evening programs at Circle cultural institutions that attract visitors to the circle during the slower midweek. The year is capped off by Holiday Fest, when museums, gardens, galleries, churches, and schools in the area join together for a day of free activities, music, and holiday shopping. The new spirit of partnerships between civic institutions around this central public space has yielded good results for visitors, residents, and area stakeholders alike, and are clearly creating lasting memories for the city of Cleveland.

White Center, WA

Greenbridge Plaza

A Global Village Grows in the Frontyard

Greenbridge Plaza, located adjacent to the community center in a HOPE VI Housing Development in White Center, an unincorporated community directly south of Seattle, is becoming a place where people understand more about each other and about the different cultures of all the people who live there. It is a community vibrant with cultural diversity; major ethnic groups include Somalian, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Khmer, Eastern European, and Native American.

Originally the development featured no public space, and felt very institutional and isolating. But Greenbridge is now being redeveloped into an urban village with numerous public spaces, of which the plaza is one. In 2006, the King County Housing Authority, with assistance from PPS, held a series of meetings and workshops to help residents of the development articulate their ideas for how the space outside the community center could be used. The vision that resulted was to develop the plaza as an informal gathering space, where the community's many cultural traditions could be celebrated. Since the grand opening in June 2006, the plaza has been able to host such events.

Greenbridge Plaza hosts events that reflect the community's many cultural traditions.

Just four months after the workshop, the first Community Party was held in the plaza with ethnic food, music and entertainment for children provided by organizations that are located in the community center (Neighborhood House, which plans activities for seniors; the YWCA, which helps with employment and training; the Boys and Girls Club; and the local Housing Authority). According to Tracie Friedman, a community coordinator for the Housing Authority who helped organize the event, it provided an opportunity for people to meet their neighbors and showed how the plaza could be used. Residents said they were excited to do more cross cultural events, both formal and informal, in the future. Before this, many of them said, they didn't have a community "place" where they could gather--they just had "spaces" between the houses.

New Glasgow, Nova Scotia

Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library

It's All Happening at the Library

A regional library in Nova Scotia has been at the forefront of an effort to bring new ideas and programs to the libraries in the province, transforming them into lively public places and destinations. Eric Stackhouse, chief librarian of the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library in New Glasgow, made it clear after he attended a PPS training course in New York that he wanted his library to play a bigger role in the community.

"Librarians have to think about our spaces differently," he said. "Before we managed book collections, but today we're doing more management of community spaces. That's where our role is heading--towards more community development skills."

The new patio of the Pictou-Antigonish library invites the community to come together.

After a PPS-led training in New Glasgow, the Pictou-Antigonish library is well on its way to becoming what Stackhouse calls "a community place." An outdoor patio offers seating and shade to library patrons and other community members, and plans are in the works to include a neighborhood snack stand or café. An expansion of the building will allow for added gathering spaces and resources within the library, while also opening up the connection to an adjacent park. Stackhouse notes that the library is making these connections one stop at a time, but that they will ultimately add up hope to a more vibrant civic life for New Glasgow.

Chicago, IL

Daley Plaza

Where Picasso Meets Potato

Daley Plaza extends outward from the front of the Daley Center--home to Cook County offices and courtrooms--in downtown Chicago. Since 1967, this plaza has been the civic center of the city, and a prominent setting for political demonstrations as well as cultural events. It is most famous for a huge Pablo Picasso sculpture installed there, known around town as simply "the Picasso".

The farmers market at Daley Plaza.

The Daley Center partners with a number of Chicago's great cultural institutions, including the nearby Art Institute, Field Museum of Natural History, and Shedd Aquarium to stage events in this heavily-trafficked space. Programs include fitness, yoga, aerobics, ice skating and preschool classes. Every Thursday during the growing season, Daley Plaza is transformed into an open air farmers market, a vibrant use that is made all the more successful by the juxtaposition between lively produce stalls and the modern architecture of the civic center which towers above.

Seattle, WA

Pike Place Market

Marketplace Turns Community Space

Pike Place Market in Seattle is often considered one of the premier market halls and farmers markets in the country. But it has also become the centerpoint of a strong community, where neighbors can find a range of social services as well as groceries. Overcoming a series of challenges (the market district was deemed blighted in the early sixties and slated by the city for urban renewal) this vibrant and exciting civic institution has given rise to economic and cultural revitalization.

The market sits in the center of a seven-acre Market Historic District, extending in an L-shape, which encompasses the Main Arcade, smaller stalls and shops, and larger restaurants and commercial spaces. The multi-level market consists primarily of fish and produce stalls, but also features over 200 unique non-food shops selling value-added goods, including artwork and local crafts. The concessions and displays are often creative and as a whole, the market is attractive and well-maintained.

The market is a true community effort: in fact, under the market's own charter, a Constituency Membership is open to anyone who lives in Washington State, is 16 years old or older, and pays $1 yearly dues. The Market Foundation was established in 1982 to handle the market's services for low-income residents of Seattle. Today, those programs, supported by fundraising, grants, and events planned by the Foundation include providing coupons for low-income market-area residents, forming partnerships with Seattle food banks, maintaining a Farmer Relief Fund, supporting low-income housing programs near the market in downtown Seattle, and a wide range of other efforts. The market is now overseen by the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority. Originally established as a commercial endeavor in Downtown Seattle exactly one hundred years ago, the Pike Place Market has become so much more: a true success as a civic institution and community landmark in Seattle.

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