Friday, June 16, 2006

This Great Space is Worth the Trip

Our recommendation this week for one of the ten great public spaces downtown is a bit remote from the other five we've noted to date, but it's marvelously active.

Growing in the literal shadow of the Tacoma Dome, Freighthouse Square is downtown's retail incubator (although no one would normally give it such a stuffy designation). When Keith Stone renovated the old freight storage buildings in the early 1990s, he was often criticized for setting up this development in a spot so remote from the city center, but today Tacoma Link provides the connection that ties everything together.

How does Freighthouse Square fit Project for Public Spaces' criteria for great public spaces?

First, it's accessible--in fact, Sound Transit has helped weave Freighthouse Square into the heart of downtown Tacoma's multimodal transportation center, the place where parking, transit, light rail and the daily Sounder trains all come together;

Second, people are engaged in activities there--not only does Freighthouse Square have a changing stable of emerging merchants that offer a lively shopping experience, but the management of the Tacoma Dome District uses the center as the staging area for a variety of festive events;

Third, the space is comfortable and has a good image--markedly improved with all of Sound Transit's capital investment in the surrounding area;

Fourth, this is a sociable space; one where people meet each other and take people when they come to visit--judging from the lunch crowd on any given week day, this is happening!

Okay, so maybe it's not technically a public space (it's publicly accessible but not publicly owned), but here we have a large space that is active due to good design, a convergence of multiple uses, and management. Could this be a model for our other great spaces?

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