The Civic Centers Program offers technical assistance and training to municipalities, civic institutions, developers, architects, building managers, and others interested in improving public buildings and the spaces around them. The main focus is on ground floors, the public spaces surrounding existing buildings, and the interface between those public spaces and nearby streets, sidewalks, and privately owned public spaces. Throughout, PPS emphasizes the need to think beyond any one building or public space, and create true civic centers through strategic development and partnerships. Our services address the design of public spaces serving government buildings, schools, hospitals, museums, libraries, office buildings, transit facilities, religious institutions, and office complexes–and how the architecture of these buildings affects the surrounding public environment.

Types of Services

Professional Training and Policy Academy

PPS provides collaborative and individual training for building managers, executive directors of civic and cultural institutions, owners, architects, and developers that addresses how to create buildings and public spaces that support surrounding districts and serve as community destinations.

Civic Space Audit and Evaluation

PPS identifies key exisitng and potential civic spaces in a city and trains others city and institutional staff, planners and citizens how to evaluate each place. This critique focuses both on existing and potential public buildings and public spaces. The product is an inventory and rating of the ten most important civic spaces in a given city, as well as a series of short and longer term improvements to be implemented. PPS recommends steps to transform each of these civic spaces into a destination with ten connected great sub-places, each with ten things to do.

Pre-Design Services

PPS will work with the client to define a framework for either new development or the retrofit of existing spaces, before the architect or developer is chosen. This type of service may include: site evaluation; crafting an RFP; guidelines for the physical planning and design of public spaces and ground floors (“where the building meets the ground”); land use and zoning plans; and recommendations for building form and massing, preservation of historic structures, landscaping, and adjacent streets.

Placemaking Workshops

PPS uses its Placemaking approach to facilitate an overall vision that the client can use to guide specific strategies for creating and sustaining a civic center full of great places. 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 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 using PPS’ unique Place Game exercise. The process results in a unique local vision for a civic center. And by building community ownership in the project and identifying resources and support from local institutions, it also provides a forum for the public and private sectors to work together cooperatively on creating useful programs and setting up the groundwork for effective implementation.

Conceptual Development

Working in an open process with municipal agencies, constituents, stakeholders, and partners, PPS creates a detailed concept–for one public space or the entire civic center–that focuses on what activities will attract people. The product is an intricate program of the uses and activities that will occur in the public space and adjacent areas throughout the civic center, including specifics about where to locate the activities and how they should relate to each other. The program would be a written description accompanied by conceptual graphics, diagrams, and/or a PowerPoint presentation to various stakeholders.

Conceptual Design

Conceptual design builds on the program of uses and activities, going into greater detail about the layout, character and amenities that will make the program a reality. Elements may include:

  • Destinations;
  • Types, layout and program of activities and uses;
  • Location of amenities such as seating, lighting, public art, and focal points;
  • Edge and street treatments;
  • Relationships to existing and new buildings;
  • Circulation patterns and paths.

A conceptual design is not a construction document, but can be used to guide final design and construction documents.

Management Programs

We have learned from our 30 years of experience that the management is responsible for 80% of the success of public spaces. PPS assists our clients in developing effective implementation and public space management strategies to sustain the activity, comfort, and safety of civic centers over the long term.


For more information on PPS’ Civic Centers program, contact Cynthia Nikitin

Civic Centers Planning Services was last modified: March 6th, 2012 by Project for Public Spaces