Monday, July 17, 2006

Guest Posting - Project for Public Spaces

Cynthia Nikitin, Vice President, Project for Public Spaces

Fred Kent, Ben Fried and I were really delighted working with all the terrific folks in Tacoma to come up with a program, management strategy and vision for the new Pacific Plaza. Rarely do we encounter a group of stakeholders--from the mayor to the merchants, representatives of civic and cultural institutions, residents and city staff--so juiced about their city, about their future and the potential to ‘turn their town around” as we did in Tacoma. All we really had to do was facilitate--to get the discussion rolling, make people feel that we were all on a “level playing field”--and then get out of your way and let you do the rest!

The ideas that came out of the workshop were top notch and the fact that similar issues surfaced in each group really shows how close you all really were to reaching consensus. We found the architects to be extremely dedicated to creating the best functioning design possible, and their enthusiasm and flexibility were both refreshing and encouraging.

We hope that the agencies that have jurisdiction over local streets will take a good look at Pacific Avenue and South 17th to see whether the volume of traffic warrants the widths of these roadways. We really feel that they are over-designed as downtown main streets and do not serve to connect the plaza to the edge uses around it. Cars should not move fast through a downtown core; streets should be designed to accommodate all users in a city center, including cyclists, pedestrians and transit passengers. These streets, as currently configured, are barriers that separate rather than seams that bind the downtown civic center together into a cohesive place.

We think that Tacoma has huge potential to become one of the great cities of the Pacific Northwest and a major West Coast destination. The city, BIA and government agencies need to support and make possible what folks want to do in the plaza and the rest of downtown. Laws and policies regulating street vendors and outdoor dining need to be re-examined; flexibility and a willingness to experiment with and try new things needs to be the hallmark of your community and your every day way of doing business. By doing this, Tacoma will not only retain but continue to attract people with talent and energy and creativity to the city center because you will have a city that appeals to people with vision and dedication. What could be better than that?

Keep up the good work and we look forward to working with you again!

7 comments:

  1. As a Tacoman with special interest in a vibrant and diverse downtown community, I would like to applaud the BIA and City of Tacoma for showing initiative like this. PPS is a respected organization whose involvement with our city's health demonstrates a serious mind toward growth in the right kind of direction.

    Thanks!

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