Posts Tagged ‘Kit Anderson’


Fifth Avenue Before


Fifth Avenue After

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I just saved a lot of typing.

Which street scene is more appealing?  Which one looks safer?  Which one would have a positive impact on the community?

Rob Dinsmore, landscape architect (to be) created those sketches as part of our Expo seminar last week.  He and Kit Anderson applied a little road diet to Fifth Avenue, the four-lane highway that bounds Marshall University in Huntington.  It exists now in the Before sketch, truly a Frogger situation if there ever was one.

Yes, the After sketch is so much better, but is it really possible, you may ask.  Certainly.  All Rob and Kit did was reduce the lane widths a little to make room for the center island.  And change Fifth Avenue from one-way traffic to two-way.  All of which serve to slow traffic.

Why slow traffic?  Well, for one, to create an atmosphere where cars and people can safely coexist.  To extend the edge of a public space and create a more social, livable community.  To create an atmosphere where people are much more likely to stop, enjoy themselves, and maybe even spend money shopping or dining.

No, it’s not for every situation, but it applies more often than not.  Particularly downtown.  Use your imagination and picture your own After sketch for the Frogger street in your city.

It’s also about the money.

Spaces for People is going live!  On Wednesday, March 20, at 1:00 PM, Rob Dinsmore and Kit Anderson will join me for a presentation at the West Virginia  Construction and Design Expo at the Charleston, WV, Civic Center.  We’ll be talking about how good quality public spaces not only enhance the quality of life, but also help generate revenue for cities. 

Think good public spaces is just about making things pretty?  Think again.  Kit Anderson is the Executive Director of the Huntington, (WV) Sanitary Board.  He’s charged with finding ways to fund big infrastructure improvements and rate increases are not always the way to go.  Stop by and hear Kit’s ideas on how cities can raise revenues with the right attitude about public spaces and the quality of life.

Rob Dinsmore is a young award-winning landscape architect.  (Rob is so young, in fact, that he’s not yet officially licensed.  I’m not supposed to call him a landscape architect, but soon he’ll be licensed and he can proudly proclaim his professional title.)  Rob will be talking about basic design principles for developing good public spaces.

As for me, I’ll go beyond design and talk about the magnets that draw a diversity of people to public space for different purposes throughout the day.  Jane Jacobs stuff.

So stop by our Expo seminar. It’s free.  Hope to see you Wednesday at 1:00.




A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to take Spaces for People live and gave a presentation at the West Virginia Construction and Design Exposition in Charleston (WV), known more commonly as Expo.  In the audience was Kit Anderson, the Assistant Public Works Director for the City of Huntington.  He had wanted to talk a little bit about public spaces but time ran short at Expo and instead, we later met outside Starbuck’s at Pullman Square in Huntington.

It was my typical Pullman Square experience, a nice day, even if it was a bit cool and breezy.  As usual, there was a good mix of people just hanging out.  Moms and kids, business folk, college students and slacker teens.  Everyone just enjoying the day.

As Kit and I talked, a thought that had been nagging me finally bubbled to the surface.  I wondered aloud whether Pullman Square would be such a lively place were it not for the shops and restaurants surrounding it.  Kit took my thought a bit further, pointing out the diversity of people, the diversity of their activities, and most importantly, the diversity of the times of day people engage in the various activities.  Pullman Square doesn’t just cater to a lunchtime crowd of office workers.  People stop at Starbucks all hours of the day and night.  The restaurants likewise attract people for lunch, dinner and a quick bite after a movie.  Did I mention the theater?

There is an economic and social diversity that makes the good design of Pullman Square successful.  Without that diversity, the green park of Pullman Square would be just another lunch crowd hangout, essentially lifeless after dark.

Kit went on to suggest that I read Jane Jacobs’ “Death and Life of Great American Cities.”  Jacobs was on my radar but at Kit’s urging, I moved the book to the front of my reading list.  Here’s one thing she had to say about parks.

Only a genuine content of economic and social diversity, resulting in people with different schedules, has meaning to the park and power to confer the boon of life upon it.

If you’re like me, you may need to go back and read that again before it starts to sink in.  What she is saying is that the best designed park in the world will not have the “boon of life” unless it is fed by that economic and social diversity.

Please indulge an absurd example to illustrate the point.  Take Bryant Park in New York or Millennium Park in Chicago or any other well-designed and popular park and transplant it on the moon.  Will anyone visit?  Of course not.  What if we put the park just outside an industrial complex?  Better chance, but still no.  The suburban office park?  You’ll get the lunch crowd, but that’s about it.  The closer you get to that diversity of people and schedules the more successful the park will be.

This blog began as a study of the good design of public spaces, as if that is what determined their success.  Design is important, but there’s much more to it than that.

Build it and they will come?  Not necessarily.