A recent discussion brought up the apparent lack of public space in the city where we can see the spectrum of cultures and classes interacting, or at least occupying the same spaces. Findlay Market was cited as one example. In this sense Findlay is great because it has something for everyone and it is acceptable for anyone to be there for a lot of different purposes. Many of the vendors accept “foodstamps” and credit cards, sell soul food and gourmet there are places to sit, people watch, eat, shop, enjoy public arts and more.
The idea of “thirdspaces” is a buzz word in planning and design circles. The basic idea is that they are the places that we occupy when we are not at work or at home. While they may not be public in the traditional sense of the word they are public in the sense that they do not explicitly exclude anyone. This contemporary nature of public space is a blessing and a curse. While they may not explicitly exclude anyone some people are just not desirable, and there for intentionally left out of programming.
One criticism I hear a lot about the progress happening in Downtown and OTR is that they seem to appeal only to a certain demographic. I agree that often little is done to mediate between the seemingly disparate groups in Cincinnati.
Fountain Square is often cited as an example where the tenants and events seems directed at a targeted groups. I have had experiences in Fountain Square that counter this notion of homogeneity, but I think it is a reasonable claim. The “plaza” in front of P&G is a notorious examples of a private public space.
I understand that it is important to draw people to these places so they can see for themselves that worthwhile things are going on and these people very little would be going on.
But I want to know if there can be more of an attempt to create public spaces, traditional or contemporary, that foster more diverse uses, users and possibilities for interaction. Could a more deliberate attempt be made and still capture the range of people this city should be accommodating. Or are we just all that different?
Maybe these are already in existence and I am overlooking them. I have heard of others, but tell me what you think.