Orchestrating A Winter Wonderland

Many of the world’s great cities have cold, snowy winters. And so does Provo. But in Provo, the colder months can see a drop off in downtown’s liveliness.

Provo sometimes sees a decrease in downtown activity during the winter, which is too bad.

That’s unfortunate because it creates a kind of feedback loop — a dead-seeming area repels people, therefore becoming even deader — and because it doesn’t have to be the case.

Luckily, Placemakers recently tackled the sometimes-difficult challenge of making an outdoor space lively despite cold weather. And as they point out, that’s really important:

In an increasingly globalized economy, where businesses as well as workers have more say in where they locate, winter cities can no longer afford to appear lifeless for a quarter of the year. Many people now choose places to live on the basis of vital local culture, and civic leaders increasingly understand that making public places that are inviting all year, not just when it is warm and sunny, is essential for a dynamic, prosperous community. Successful visions for winter cities include showcasing numerous opportunities for public activity throughout the winter months (not just during the brief holiday season), focusing on local identity and character and, of course, providing an inviting, vibrant physical environment.

The article goes on to cite examples in Paris, New York, Berlin and Vienna. It points to holiday-themed events, winter markets, sports, cafes, carnivals and art among other things as examples of successful outdoor activities and notes that cities should work to create a positive association with winter weather.

Later, the article offers six recommendations for making lively places in the cold, which I’ve excerpted here:

  • Winter events should last awhile, preferably more than a week.
  • The events and activities should overlap and be spaced out.
  • Different types of activities and events should be combined so they can build off each other.
  • Focus on what makes a particular city special.
  • Creative lighting is key because it creates an ambiance for the city center as a whole.
  • Management is essential.

It’s possible to create lively outdoor spaces even during cold winters.

There’s no doubt that Provo has improved downtown in recent years.

But just this last weekend I was walking around downtown Saturday night and it felt especially quiet. That’s unfortunate because in many ways downtown is more magical during the winter. Hopefully in the future, intelligent programming will help more people enjoy it.

Winter poses a challenge to cities hoping for a lively downtown. But there are examples of how to make that happen.


1 Comment

Filed under Downtown

One response to “Orchestrating A Winter Wonderland

  1. I happened to spend time in Europe (Paris, Zurich and Munich) last Christmas season and the Christmas markets were awesome. My wife and I had a blast and couldn’t help but notice there really isn’t anything like that in Utah. I think a winter/christmas market could do really well on center street — I’m thinking something similar to the Latin festival or even Freedom Festival but for Christmas.

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