Saturday, March 14, 2015

Thinking About Lexington's Urban Public Spaces

I spent some time this morning participating in an exercise identifying elements of downtown living for the Gehl Studio and DDA.

About 30 of us first discussed what we thought were distinctive parts of images from around the world. Photos of all types, taken of generally urban scenes, can give subtle clues to what people like (or dislike) about public spaces. By identifying which of these desirable parts we like, they can then be compared to those sites in Lexington which have them or really need them.

It did not strike me as odd that the common activity areas were delineated, nor that these will probably be surveyed further for more detailed responses. What was missing was the failure to question why other parts of our city may lack what we apparently desire. In other words, how do we direct street activity, both retail and pedestrian, to the “dead zones” of urbanity.

In my mind, such urban dead zones can be the usual surface parking which has commonly replaced the former fabric of downtown structures lost to neglect. They may also be the missing civic elements of neighborhoods where vast swaths of nearly identical housing limit the availability of many desirable elements identified above. If desirable elements attract activity, how can the encourage them where they are lacking?

I hope that much more can come out of this and that there is more community involvement in the coming months. I will be keeping an eye on the progress.

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