COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space

PPS at Work

Jul 31, 2008
Dec 14, 2017

During the past year, PPS has worked on waterfronts throughout the world. We have engaged local communities in coming up with new visions for these special places and helped developers incorporate Placemaking principles into their design process. In some cities, we've advocated major transformation of underused and underperforming waterfronts that are cut off from life in the rest of the city.

The following is a sample of PPS waterfront work.

Embarcadero Marina Parks (San Diego, CA)

Bringing life back to a breathtaking but little-used park

Giant board games engage visitors at the Bahia del Sol celebration. Photo courtesy of Port of San Diego

PPS engaged local stakeholders in San Diego to revitalize an isolated waterfront park and help launch an exciting summer festival that capitalizes on the area's energetic spirit and cultural diversity. Despite breathtaking views in close proximity to downtown, the 22-acre Embarcadero Marina Parks sits mostly unused. Hard to reach without a car and virtually hidden behind a wall of high-rise hotels and a  convention center, few people took advantage of this opportunity to enjoy the Pacific Ocean right in the heart of town.

A Placemaking workshop led by PPS set the stage for a series of small but valuable improvements intended to evolve the waterfront into a popular destination for local residents, nearby employees and visitors.  These ideas were developed in conjunction with the San Diego Port District and area stakeholders who envisioned how this one-time working port could better connect to downtown and  flourish as a local gathering place.

Putting these ideas quickly into action, The Port of San Diego recently hosted  Bahia del Sol, a summer event that features interactive activities for people young and old. There was live music, salsa dancing, environmental education, drumming sessions, yoga classes and giant board games. Public art was an important part of the event, and this year local artists were invited to customize picnic tables throughout the parks. Bahia del Sol caters to people of all ages and taps into the area’s unique cultural mix.

Granville Island (Vancouver, Canada)

Keeping the vision going for a top-flight urban district

Smart management strategies have kept Granville Island a popular place for more than 30 years.

Granville Island-a mix of a public market, park, art school, community center, theater performance spaces, restaurants and unique shopping linked to downtown Vancouver by regular boat service-has been hailed for 30 years as one of the most successful urban places. Located in False Creek, an inlet connected to the ocean, it was fashioned from an old industrial site in the late 1970s.

PPS recently partnered with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), which operates the 37-acre complex, to guide planning in the coming years to ensure Granville Island’s continuing success.  We facilitated meetings between CMHC staff and local stakeholders to evaluate the existing development as part of the planning process for the area. The evaluation showed that although some parts of the island were well used, others could be improved to create new destinations for people coming to the island.

Miami Baywalk (Miami, FL)

Making the connections on a new bayside promenade

The Miami Baywalk will soon link key waterfront destinations.

Miami is fortunate to have direct access to much of its waterfront. The public will soon be able to enjoy this scenic asset even more thanks to a bayfront promenade, much of which is already in place or under construction.  But several key links in the Baywalk posed vexing problems for successful completion of the mile-long trail. That’s where PPS came in. The City of Miami invited us to work with the community on a planning effort with two major goals: 1) to explore how best to create a continuous promenade along Biscayne Bay that would permanently connect  communities, activities and destinations along the route as well as link up with the Miami River Greenway; and 2) to identify opportunities for filling in missing sections of the promenade.

PPS held a community Placemaking workshop that was attended by citizens, public officials, design professionals, members of civic and cultural institutions, business owners and other stakeholders. Participants worked together to create a vision for activities, amenities and programs along the route that will create the excitement found in pedestrian waterfront promenades all over the world.

Drawing upon results from the workshop, PPS developed a series of recommendations; identified opportunities, potential partners and funders for the promenade; and offered detailed recommendations for management programs, short-term and long-term physical improvements, and potential activities and program.

Placemaking Down Under

PPS just finished a four-week barnstorming tour of Australia conducting waterfront trainings

PPS just finished an intensive four-week tour of waterfronts in Australia, facilitating local officials in Perth, Melbourne and the Gold Coast to work together on Placemaking initiatives.

During the month of August, PPS staff conducted Placemaking workshops, keynote lectures and presentations throughout Australia that focused on waterfronts and the importance of creating great destinations. We shared best-practice principles and offered advice to both residents and professionals about how to improve their process through more community input.

On the Perth waterfront, PPS conducted a “Power of 10” exercise where attendees listed their five best and worst destinations, and five with the most promise. Attendees were quickly able to assess which spaces were in need of improvement and how to capitalize on those with the most potential.

On Australia’s subtropical Gold Coast south of Brisbane, a string of waterfront cities are booming. With a focus on transportation development, PPS challenged officials to integrate each transit station with its destination rather than simply construct out-of-context facilities.

In Brisbane, a pedestrian mall and a development on the south bank of the Brisbane River are world class examples of how to create great waterfront places. But Brisbane also has the worst traffic of any city in Australia and little vision on how to change it. PPS worked with design leaders on integrating responsible waterfront street design with usable public spaces, as opposed to simply creating additional capacity for cars.

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COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space