Earlier this morning, Placemaker Nathan Norris pointed out that one of the most important ways to create successful public spaces is to have a model on which to base them:
Yes, in the course of a meaningful visioning process, the naming of a specific place as a model for emulation is not absolutely necessary, but its benefits are so great that failing to do so constitutes one of the most critical mistakes you can make. Not because you should be identical to somewhere else but, rather, because you’re more effective developing a vision in terms of something real, proven and relatable, employing whatever tweaks or qualifications necessary to make it appropriate for your own community.
Significantly, some of the first pictures Norris includes in his post are of downtown Provo. He uses a synoptic survey — which measures street-level details like frontage — of downtown as an example of something that allows communities to emulate successful spaces.
I think Provo often does a decent job of finding models worth emulation. One of the main reasons I keep comparing Provo’s economic situation to that of Boulder, for example, is because officials and residents alike are studying the Colorado city to see what lessons it offers.
But perhaps the city could do a better job. Parking immediately comes to mind as an issue that is contentious and poorly understood. Just last week when I was writing this article for the newspaper, for example, I listened to several shop owners connect slow sales to parking issues. Clearly, interested parties in Provo need to come up with more concrete models related to this issue, especially because it’s about to become even hotter.
In any case, Norris, goes on to mention four benefits of using placemaking models:
1. Building stronger consensus
2. Reducing failed experimentation
3. Mitigating the scope of single-issue specialization
4. Increasing efficiency of the decision-making process
Norris goes into more detail on each of the points and I’d recommend reading the entire post. But in the meantime, it’s worth pondering what great spaces Provo should emulate as well as how to make those examples a prominent part of the discussion.