Challenge Although Downtown San Antonio enjoys a rich history and a number of attractive neighborhoods, its Main Plaza did not have a strong identity. Constructed in the early 18th century, the plaza featured few amenities and activities and was not pedestrian friendly. The City hired PPS in 2006 as consultants to develop a new concept for the plaza that would meet the needs and interests of stakeholders and activate the space within the context of the downtown.
Process/Solutions PPS facilitated a workshop designed to encourage participants to evaluate the plaza and to come up with ideas for how it could be improved. Meetings were also held with a variety of public and private sector stakeholders about their perceived issues and opportunities they saw for improvement. From participant feedback, PPS developed a concept plan and series of management recommendations for improving Main Plaza: traffic calming measures throughout the area to improve walkability; connecting the plaza to nearby attractions; developing an administrative body to oversee the day-to-day operation of the plaza and programming.
Outcomes Completed in April 2008, the $12 million renovation created a multitude of new additions to Main Plaza. Five new interactive fountains are located in the center, helping create a fun place for kids to play and patrons to congregate and engage the space. Main Plaza is also more effectively connected to the adjacent Riverwalk, a big downtown attraction. A nonprofit organization, Main Plaza Conservancy, manages the day to day operations of the square. Main Plaza also features many performance and visual artists, as well as farmers selling produce. These changes have positioned the area as an important center of San Antonio culture, and the APA recently featured it in its list of Great Places in America: Public Spaces. PPS is now working with the City of San Antonio and the San Antonio Centro BID to build on Placemaking successes through a collaboration that includes our Digital Placemaking Applications, trainings, and demonstration projects.
Many great public spaces have grown out of communities resisting development. It is the evolution from opposition to proactive visioning - helping to create, finance, and manage public spaces - that often makes the opposition successful. Congress Square, and the community around it, are forging this story of transformation.
Mayor Bill de Blasio caused quite a stir around New York City yesterday as he floated the idea of tearing up the pedestrian plaza in Times Square. This statement was the culmination of several days of debate centered around predatory panhandling and the square’s growing number of “street performers.”