Planning Liveable Communities (a planning blog), has an excellent posting on July 10 titled. "Boston Places, Great and Horrid". The article starts:
It was a beautiful summer Sunday today here in New England, and Boston was swarming with both locals and tourists eager to enjoy the weather. Parks, streets and neighborhoods were packed with pedestrians - in fact, I overheard a tourist nearby comment, "Boston is a walker-friendly city." Indeed!
Yet this is what Boston’s City Hall Plaza looked like at lunchtime today [picture shows empty plaza].
We, and many others comment frequently about the design parameters required for a lively city. Density is a factor, but if we shorten ourselves on the design side, we will just get ugly density. We need to incorporate landscaping (lots of the soft variety, to hide the hardscape), a sense of enclosure while still being outside ("outdoor rooms" set apart form the large open "plaza space", tree shaded streets, smaller (intimate) spaces, human scale, unique settings where people can just hang out and watch the happenings.
We think about the "5 Points Plaza" space. What if this were designed so that several smaller spaces could be delineated (ideally with shade trees and shrubs), yet could operate as an open space when an event was scheduled (Reading Festival, Art Show). People living in the downtown condos could have an easily accessible, lively outdoor space. Residents and visitors alike would be drawn to such a lively place. Street vendors might find enough customers to offer a hot or cold drink or something to eat. This could be a very special gathering space.
Over on Lemon, the wide open plaza space north of Mattison’s is always bare. Looks like the Boston photo from above - concrete, open, bare. When there is an event (Friday After 5, Farmer’s Market, etc) lots of people mill around. But the lack of shade, places to sit and an "enclosed space", keep it empty most of the time. This could also be a very lively place given a few amenities.
South on Lemon, at the intersection of Lemon and Pineapple intersection is a small "plaza" with a fountain and some nice benches. I have never seen anyone sitting in this place. Obviously it needs something else to act as a gathering space. For starters, some nice shade trees might tempt a few people to spend some time there.
Planning Liveable Communities has other insight:
A liveable neighborhood has more than a place to live and a place to work. It’s got another place - a third place, as CoolTown Studios explains, noting Ray Oldenburg's book on the topic – an appealing community gathering place, not for official events, but to hang out. That’s what Cheers was; that’s what the Central Perk coffee shop and the diner were in Seinfeld.
We could use a few "third places" in downtown Sarasota as well as in other parts of our town.