Celebrating public spaces by putting people first

August 11, 2017 11:39 am

The draft South End Vision Plan showcases six goals for South End, including the goal to “Celebrate Public Space” by putting people first, constructing many and varied public spaces, and attracting and supporting cultural and entertainment venues.

At Charlotte Center City Partners, we believe that public spaces are essential ingredients for cities. A public space is a gathering spot, a place for quiet reflection, for play, for expressing opinions and for coming together in both sorrow and celebration. They come in many different forms: parks and public markets, streets and sidewalks, central squares and plazas are all different kinds of public space.

Every community needs public spaces, and the more people you have living and working in an area, the more public spaces you need to host all the activities of urban life.

One of the key services that Center City Partners provides for our community is producing events large and small to highlight and animate our public spaces with activity. 

One recent example was the South End-Wilmore National Night Out event held in the future park space at the corner of South Tryon and Kingston. Wilmore and South End residents flocked to the sound of live music and the sight of a gathering crowd and activity in the often-empty green field. Families walked over from Wilmore, and residents out with their dogs stopped by for ice cream, music and to ask “Will this happen every week?”

The Charlotte Rail Trail is another example of public space, and is a story of civic partners working together to create new public space where none existed. The Rail Trail winds through South End offering two and four-legged walkers and joggers a place to get out, greet neighbors, and explore the neighborhood.

We have seen that even small public areas can provide the “sticky spaces” in urban environments where people can interact with each other. Parklets like the Rail Trail Symphony site near the Blue Line’s New Bern Station and Edna’s Porch near the Bland Street Station are barely more than pockets of land tucked along the Rail Trail, but it doesn’t take much space to make a place to pause, rest or play.

Thanks to a recent Knight Cities Challenge, another empty green space along the trail will be transformed from an inaccessible tangle into a trail extension and park-like area called Grove and Field.

John Muir, known as a champion of National Parks, expressed the human need for nature in all forms in his book, The Yosemite saying, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”

Clearly this sentiment is understood by all of you who contributed your time and thoughts during the South End Vision planning process. We are grateful for your input and the opportunity to make these public visions reality for Charlotte.

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