Earlier this week, the city council “vacated” 100 South near the tabernacle. The move means the street is no longer public and brings the city one step closer to selling it to the LDS Church for the Tabernacle Temple campus. Closing 100 South isn’t supposed to adversely impact traffic in the area, but Sterling Beck deserves major props for arguing that it needs to remain open for bikes:
The closest thing to an objection came from Councilman Sterling Beck, who wanted to make sure the public would still be able to traverse the area where the road was. Beck said he bikes on 100 South, and knows that other people use it to get around the city.
Overall, this is an exciting development. But as I’ve expressed before, a botched or underperforming temple campus would be a tragedy for downtown Provo. In the past, I’ve additionally noted lessons planners should take from downtown stadiums in other cities, as well as from the business campuses of major tech corporations.
In that same vein, the Atlantic Cities recently reported on the inadequacies of the National Mall in Washington D.C.:
It works best from a distance: from an airplane, maybe, or from the top of the Washington Monument or the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It used to be impressive also from the portico of the U.S. Capitol’s west front; alas, that view is no longer available to us.
But it doesn’t work as a place to experience, to be inside, at least not for me. And one of the problems is that one can’t really be “inside,” for the most part. Few of its spaces have a sense of enclosure, and some of them are just too vast for my taste. It’s like being on your random, poorly maintained high school football field when there’s no game going on (albeit with a major federal building or two in the distance).
In the article, author Kaid Benfield argues that the problem with the National Mall is that it feels empty. By contrast, a good public space creates a feeling of intimacy. That’s a very similar point I was trying to make when I reported on Brazil’s own version of a national mall.
Benfield then reviews efforts to solve these problems in Washington D.C.
So in addition to the lessons gleaned from stadiums and tech campuses, the National Mall suggests that a downtown campus — like the one the church is about to build — needs to include intimate spaces. That’s opposed to sprawling, open spaces.
I truly hope that the church gets the campus right. I’ve pointed out over and over again that they’ve never done a temple like this before and there is no precedent for them to succeed. But success is possible and if city leaders advocate for the economic goals of the community both Provo and the church can prosper.