Update on Silver Spring

I posted a few years ago about an innovative re-use of a parking lot in Silver Spring. Field turf was laid down and a public space was born. Some of the reasons for its success is its location in a central site, surrounded by amenities.

In May 2008!

A friend just sent over a picture of the plaza's continued use. Here's what she said:

Everyone there seemed so happy and relaxed; it's almost a rare scene in a town (DC area) where people are so work-centered and don't seem to slow down so much. (I'm sure it's worse in NYC.) I'm sure the fact that it was one of the first warm spring days didn't hurt. There were kids playing ball, families having picnics, couples having romantic moments, people just sitting around reading, and there was even a "Save Darfur" parade/rally that showed up while I was there.

They've really turned the area into something really special with stores, restaurants, fountains and tons places to sit and relax. People were just sitting around shooting the breeze. Kids were playing in pretty safe areas away from traffic. They even closed the road at the bottom of the turf and it was taken over by skateboarders (who are usually kicked out of public places like these). Even when a brief shower came through, no one ran screaming for their cars, really. They just seemed to go underneath covered spots to cheerfully wait it out. I don't know how to explain it, but it just seemed so different than what I remember as the "norm" around here.
Whoo-hoo, Silver Spring! Just one little suggestion just based on this photograph: it would be great if the retailed with the wall adjacent to this space made their space more transparent and provided some amenities for the people in this space. It looks like there's a cafe terrace overlooking the space...why not bring the cafe down to the plaza?

BTW, the DOT is launching a Public Plaza Initiative for New York City, so we have our own opportunity to take under-utilized space and convert it into something amazing. There are so many neighborhoods I can think of where the streets and parking need to go on a major diet. The DOT will be seeking applications for this project starting in June, I believe. Here are some tips on what the DOT will be interested in seeing from the application, based on the experience with the demonstration project in DUMBO. Get organized!

Thanks Patee!


Supermarkets in NYC

via flickr

The convenience of having access to fresh food on a regular basis in New York City has officially become a privilege. A new Department of City Planning study has found that underserved communities are the most likely to have supermarkets close. The New York Times covers the study as well. I don't have an understanding of the economic formula that is behind this phenomenon, other than the simple assumption that rents are outpacing margins from food prices.

About a month ago, at the Design Trust for Public Space's Paul Goldberger and Danny Meyers conversation (I believe soon you will be able to download the MP3 from the Design Trust site), there was the idea floated of providing inclusionary rents for small businesses in business districts or main street type areas as a way to maintain community character. Maybe there should be something for supermarkets as well, even if they are not in business districts. There are many micro-communities throughout New York that would not qualify as having a main street. These supermarkets do not have to be "super" either - as long as they did provide produce, not just packaged foods which are now available drug stores and gas stations, and they should be accessible without a car for the most vulnerable populations.