Web Reviews: A Brush With Greatness
Web Reviews: A Brush With Greatness
Attractive public spaces--tree-filled parks, architecturally significant buildings, and pedestrian-friendly shopping streets--can boost property values and make residents feel more connected to their community. Great Public Spaces spotlights buildings, streets, and parks that attract business investments, provide cultural opportunities, or make communities better places to live. It also provides resources you can use to beautify public spaces in your own community. The Project for Public Spaces, a national non-profit group, produces the site. The group is devoted to helping communities create and sustain public places including parks; plazas and central squares; transportation; public buildings and architecture; and public markets.
The site contains dozens of profiles of welcoming public spaces, searchable by city, state, name, or date entered. These concise, well-written reviews give you a feel for what makes the space special. The site also allows you to nominate your favorite places. The PPS publicizes the nomination in the local press and solicits comments from residents to evaluate whether to formally nominate it as a Great Public Space.
Most entries provide multiple photographs, as well as explaining a site's attributes and history. Each profile also offers contact numbers for more information (for instance, the local tourist board). Scanning through the entries reveals some genuinely pleasant surprises. You might expect to read praise for New Orleans’s famous French Market, but how about Lake Street in suburban Oak Park, Ill.? The profiles are divided into the following categories:
- Streets--From Main Street in Northampton, Mass., to Coney Island, N.Y., this section highlights the best transit stations, retail districts, boulevards, roads, sidewalks, and main streets.
- Markets—Philadelphia’s Italian Market, Dallas’s Farmers Market, and Baltimore’s Lexington Market are among the listed locations for you to shop ‘till you drop.
- Parks—New York’s Central Park and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park highlight this collection of plazas, civic squares, waterfronts, and gardens.
- Buildings—Washington, D.C.’s Union Station and Boston's South Station are among the structures included in this list of post offices, courthouses, museums, and schools.
Although your home town may not have sites of the scale shown here, the descriptions are great ways to spark ideas for community revitalization products that will make your area more appealing. If you’re lucky enough to live near one of these places, you can also add it as an informational link to your Web site and give relocation prospects an unbiased view of just how great your community is.
Not everything on the site is beautiful. The “Hall of Shame” shows the flip side of community development, with places, spaces, and buildings that are unsafe, inaccessible, or just plain ugly. This motley collection includes locations such as Boston’s City Hall Plaza, a product of late 60s urban renewal that the site describes as “one of the most disappointing places in America,” and Denver’s Skyline Park, summed up as “a park with no people, running along a street with no sidewalk.” Not only are these entries perversely entertaining, but maybe you’ll recognize some qualities that you will want to eliminate from your own neighborhood.
If you get inspired by what you see, the site also offers resources on transforming your community, including articles on such subjects as “What Makes a Great Public Space,” “Why Public Spaces Fail,” and “10 Benefits of Public Spaces.” The Project for Public Spaces' homepage offers additional information on similar subjects. Or you can get involved with community revitalization projects through organizations such as the National Trust for Historic Preservation, or maybe even develop your own local initiative like some of REALTOR Magazine’s Good Neighbors Awards recipients.
You don’t have to have a million-dollar budget to create a beautiful public space. For example, simple steps such as public seating, flowers, and murals can help make a local park more friendly. At the same time, great public spaces don’t happen by accident. They need care and nurturing from concerned citizens--like you.
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