How public space make cities work

Even more important than buildings in a city are the public space in between them.

With the increase in private development and public infrastructure improvements our city is going to see over the next several years, it's important that the public is involved in the conversation about what we want our public space to be and how they can be improved. While the city has a great staff of planners and other professionals, it's those of us who live here that need to provide much needed input about the future of our public spaces.

What is public space? This, from Wikipedia:

A public space is a social space that is generally open and accessible to people. Roads (including the pavement), public squares, parks and beaches are typically considered public space. Government buildings which are open to the public, such as public libraries are public space. Although not considered public space, privately owned buildings or property visible from sidewalks and public thoroughfares may affect the public visual landscape, for example, by outdoor advertising.

Here are several reasons why now is an important time to be thinking about our public spaces:

  • Private development is picking up and almost always has a public aspect to it. At the very least the street frontage is generally improved. Other times there may be "shared open space" connected to public space or public space built in exchange for looser development regulations.
  • The Main Street Project to rebuild 56th Ave W and several side streets is currently being designed. It will provide greatly improved pedestrian infrastructure with wider sidewalks and bicycle facilities.
  • The Gateway connector street is also currently being designed. It will provide a new automobile and pedestrian connection between 236th at the Transit Center and 244th. It will also allow for the development of a couple of notable properties including the old Evergreen Elementary property.
  • Park impact fees are assessed to private development.  The city's intention has been to purchase some land for a town square/public plaza in the Town Center block bounded by 56th/58th and 232nd/234th.
  • If a new City Hall is built any time soon that will undoubtedly provide some new public space.
  • There has also been talk of rebuilding/remodeling the Recreation Pavilion some time soon.
  • The former Ballinger Golf Course is an incredible public space asset that will soon begin the master planning process that will allow the community to decide on a vision for the area. The future Lakeview Trail will connect the Transit Center to the Interurban Trail and will likely bring a fair amount of pedestrian traffic to Ballinger Park.

Amanda Burden is the former director of the New York City Department of City Planning and recently did this TED talk titled "How Public Space Make Cities Work". Check out the video below.

How could Mountlake Terrace's public space be improved?


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