With its small scale historic streets, strategically located public squares, and working waterfront, Mobile, Alabama has all the ingredients for a vibrant environment in which to live, work and visit. Yet it has been decades since downtown was “the place to be” and many areas are in chronic decline. The City of Mobile asked PPS to create a Public Space Master Plan for downtown, with special recommendations for short-term improvements to help catalyze change.
The larger goals of the project were to:
PPS conducted surveys and workshops, as well as focus groups with over 100 leaders representing different skills, sectors and neighborhoods. Our recommendations addressed all of downtown, with projects ranging from street and sidewalk improvements, to revitalizing parks and plazas, to establishing guidelines and a review process for how the bases of new buildings are designed and built.
PPS incorporated a public art component into the plan to give communities and neighborhoods a sense of identity; to act as an attraction and a draw; and to add to and round out the City’s complement of cultural resources.
Today, downtown Mobile is thriving, and many PPS recommendations have seen great success. The farmers market has enjoyed consistent success and a second market has opened on Thursdays at Municipal Square, near the Mobile Art Museum. Following PPS’ recommendation, the original market moved to the center of Cathedral Square, where it draws high numbers of residents and tourists alike each Saturday.
Cathedral Square itself has become a center of diverse activity, sidewalk culture, and community identity for downtown Mobile. The city has encouraged restaurateurs to put park-side café seating in excess parking spaces around Cathedral Square.
In addition, the city added a raised mid-block pedestrian crossing to increase park accessibility and street safety. The city has installed movable tables and chairs around the central fountain, established a Contemporary Art Center next to the square, and encouraged a wide range of public and private events, from weddings to concerts to impromptu picnics.
Another successful addition to downtown life is the LoDa Artwalk. The Art Walk, a once-monthly event that turns the galleries, restaurants, shops, and sidewalks of the downtown district into a gallery for local and visiting artists, draws large numbers of people of all generations. The event fosters a true sense of community around downtown Mobile and encourages further use of public spaces like Cathedral Square. Mobile, AL is continuing to apply PPS’ principles and recommendations to make its public spaces and downtown district a truly unique cultural destination.
PPS also created a public art master plan for the City of Mobile.