Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Strategies for Achieving Great Parks and Commons...

I find myself spending a lot of time thinking about what makes a great public space and what do we need to take into consideration when creating these spaces.  The new Green Line in St. Paul is soon to open and as we anticipate the opening here are some really good strategies to take into consideration as we contemplate,  "greening"  the Green Line,  along with an article on some parks that seem to be doing it right from the Project for Public Spaces blog.

Strategies for Achieving Great Parks

Through nearly 30 years of observation and analysis, PPS has identified nine strategies that help parks achieve their full potential as active public spaces that enhance neighborhoods and catalyze economic development. The parks profiled in this article provide excellent examples of these strategies in practice.
  • Use transit as a catalyst for attracting visitors
  • Make management of the park a central concern
  • Develop strategies to attract people during different seasons
  • Acquire diverse funding sources
  • Design the park layout for flexibility
  • Consider both the “inner park” and “outer park”
  • Provide amenities for the different groups of people using the park
  • Create attractions and destinations throughout the park
  • Create an identity and image for the park

Monday, December 16, 2013

12 Steps to Creating Community Commons

This excerpt is from a free guide entitled " How to Design our World for Happiness"  The commons guide to placemaking, public space, and enjoying a convivial life.  By Jay Walljasper & On the Commons

     12 Steps to Creating a Community Commons

1. Protection from traffic
2.Protection from crime
3.Protection from the elements
4. A place to walk
5. A place to stop and stand
6. A place to sit
7. Things to see
8. Opportunities for conversation
9. Opportunities for play
10. Human-scale size and sensibility
11. Opportunities to enjoy good weather
12. Aesthetic quality

"People are not out in public places because they have to be, but because they love to," notes architect Jan Gehl, an urban design professor Emeritus at the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts." If a place is not appealing they can go elsewhere. That means the quality of public space has to become important."  The above is a guide to evaluating public spaces.. in order to have a successful space Gehl finds that the following need to be present. 

for more ideas check out the entire guide:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

New stop animation video of the Green Line

The following is an amazing time lapse video of the new Green Line light rail from downtown St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis.  It is a great preview of what is to come when the light rail opens during the summer of 2014. To view click on the link below:

Monday, December 2, 2013

Paint the Plaza

Little Mekong Plaza

St. Paul Meat Market located on University Ave between Mai Village and Little Szechuan restaurant
Community connections will lead the way....  As part of our initial meetings with the Green Lines Parks and Commons work-group,  Little Mekong Plaza was an early site for consideration as a demonstration site.  Va Meng the Executive Director of the Asian Economic Development Association ( AEDA), expressed a direct interest in having some sort of demonstration opportunity within the Little Mekong District as a effort to create a  plaza as a cultural beacon for the communities and businesses in the Little Mekong district, and as a safe community space that supports this cross-cultural district.

The focus of the work at this demo site will be on sustained community engagement by creating a painted plaza/community space that can used for a variety of activities and events.  In addition, the demo site activities will encourage discussion about removing a building (St. Paul Meat Market) that is currently on the plaza site, as well as visioning the future plaza/ green social and community space.  Va Meng, the Director of the Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA) and his HECUA intern Mai Vang, are spearheading this discussion.  

Our event was organized around  St. Paul’s Open Streets on September 15th with a goal to paint a predesigned mural (on the St. Paul Meat Market) and on the adjoining pavement to demarcate the possible plaza.  Local artists Kao Lee Thao, was hired to work with AEDA to create the design of the mural and pavement painting.  Community members  were invited to help with the actual painting (think “paint-by-the-numbers”) during Open Streets day.   Youth Leadership Members of Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT) worked with the artist, Kao Lee Thao to direct the public in the paint the plaza activities and also worked as DJ's for the event. 

Community Volunteer
Finished Mural
Artist/Designer Kao Lee Thao

Demonstration Sites

A demonstration according to Wikipedia involves showing by reason or proof, explaining, or making clear by use of examples or experiments. As part of the Green Lines Parks and Commons Initiative, we are trying to demonstrate and spotlighting great examples of  how a park, commons, plaza, or green space could be used?

We are working to examine how the public comes to a commons and what encourages them to gather, to claim, and to utilize a space?  We are examining what makes commons great?  As part of this explorations we are also investigating what constitutes a park? Do we need every green space to be a large public park with playground equipment and lots of seating or could a nice bench in a shaded area with a few planters also serve as a respite and an oasis in an urban environment.  When we combine public parks with smaller green oasis does the larger density of green commons provide us with added benefits?
This investigation  is part of a grand experiment in which a community minded public artist works in collaboration with a non- profit arts organization and a major institution and community stakeholder to imagine the possible and move the theoretical conversations into reality.

For our purposes we will examine other models of urban green spaces and we will reflect on how they could work in Minnesota, while at the same time creating  new lighter, quicker, cheaper examples based on our own trials and experiment and this blog will act as a resource and guide for our findings.

Early research led us to the Rebar group which  has lead the way in new thinking about public space and parks through their work on Park(ing) Day and their latest work on parklets.

Make Common Space Great!

Make Common Space Great, is an initiative of the Trust for Public Land's Green Lines Parks and Commons Initiative.  The initiative is focused on the creation of four pop-up demonstration park models along the St. Paul Central Corridor Green Line.  The focus is to find new and innovative ways of creating and utilizing public plazas and common spaces along University Ave in St. Paul and Minneapolis  Minnesota. Each demo site will act as an exploratory lab and support mechanism to stimulate conversations about the best types of programming and amenities for each area and will serve as a spot light on what is possible on the commons.  Each location will serve as a grand experiment into what a park or a common could look like and may offer some new ideas about what constitutes green or common space.