Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Effectiveness of Places

Yesterday I asked who determines what a Place is, while finishing with a picture of Veteran's Memorial Plaza, the circle park next to the parking garage in Mound's downtown.

Veteran's Memorial Plaza - Is this a non-place?

It is clear the city has developed a public space, and expect people us use this place. It is well maintained area, always clean, and highly visible to passing motorist and transit users. It was planned, designed, invested heavily by someone (the city or donor?) and was built to be a place of significance, which you can feel when you enter the area. There is definitely a sense of mystique and awe here. There are several benches that face the center of the circle.

Unfortunately, it's loud with traffic speeding by, and you feel like you're in a fishbowl, where everyone is watching you when you spend time here. The traffic of course creates a lot of noise as well. Another downside, is with the sense of awe and mystique one feels when you enter the place, it's not one where I as a parent feel free to let my child run around.

Lots of people drive by here. Lots of people get on the bus near here. Does anyone ever drive to here?

We are glad you are enjoying A Place in Mound. There have been a lot of great discussions about places and Mound. If you have a Place or non-place you feel would be good to point out, definitely contact us and let us know about it! We also ask, if you are on Facebook, please take a moment and 'like' us there so you can get notified right away when we make a new post every morning. If you're not on Facebook, you can get posts emailed to you by sharing your email on the right. Thanks for all that you do to support places in Mound

As many times as I go by Veterans Memorial Plaza, I cannot recall a single time I've ever seen the spaced used by anyone.

Admiring a monument in Veteran's Memorial Plaza.
Clearly there are times when a place like Veteran's Memorial Plaza are needed, and it is important that the city have places like this. But is this effective use of space? What are we, as citizens saying about a place like this if it's not used? Do we not care about a place like this? Do we not value it? Did the city make a mistake in the creation of Veteran's Memorial Plaza? How can we create value here so it is a Place?

Nearby, the Andrew Sisters Trail is a short trail along part of Lake Minnetonka that was developed and built around the same time. Is was to connect and be a Place for the new downtown of Mound. There are several benches overlooking the lake (often not used) as the Andrew Sisters Trial is currently used to connect places currently, more than it is a destination. However this bench has become a regular stop for my kids.

Benches like this are found along the Andrew Sisters Trail, and other parts of downtown Mound.

Why would this bench be a place? Because it looks straight at this large rock.

Is this a place?
And what's so special about that rock? Just ask my daughter, who climbs on it almost every time we walk by here.

Creation of a place in Mound
Clearly someone decided to make a place here, but I imagine it was more happenstance, than anything. It is small, pleasant and quiet. This place is cheaper, and makes use of the natural features of the trail and shoreline. The space here is small and contained, so the kids tend to keep close to the rock. The bench gives dad a chance to take a load off!

Clearly if a another child would walk by with their parent, they would have to join the fun, and it gives the parents a chance to connect, which is what a Place is really all about.

If a lot of money is spent on a valuable piece of land, the citizens of Mound should expect a return of some sort on that place. In turn, if a place just happens to come along in cheap and interesting ways, that needs to be supported, and encouraged. We need to push for these cheap and organic places to spring up and the city has a responsibility to support these places when and where it can.

We want places where people can connect. We want to be able to easily support our local businesses. We want safe places for our children. We want to be able to easily access a place in whatever way WE choose.

We want Mound to be a place to drive to, not drive through.


  1. It seems to me that since the invention of suburbia we as a society have lost the connection to the towns we live in. They are simply an arbitrary boundary that gives us the ability to tell someone a location that lets them know how far we've traveled. Since most of society lives in a housing development of some kind, they are required to drive somewhere to get whatever supplies they need and therefore they are going to be drawn to a retail center versus a downtown district.

    Why do we prefer retail centers versus downtown shopping. Lack of unnecessary walking. How many times have to been at a big box store and seen someone waiting for another car to pull out of a parking spot that is close to the door. If that person had just parked in the first available spot they more than likely could have parked and walked in sooner than they did waiting for that closer spot. As a society we value shorting walking distances more than our precious time. I was at Costco the other day and saw someone wait 3 minutes for a spot when there was an open one only two spots away (about forty more feet from the door). I saw this because I was blocked in my spot by the waiting car.

    So what does all this have to do with creating a place. I think town centers that want to revive their sense of community need to take into consideration how society makes decisions about their shopping and recreational habits. Has Arbor Lakes retail center been successful? This particular area requires people to park and walk more than we are use to, however they pack a lot of shopping and dinning opportunities into this area. Can this be applied to a town center such as Mound? Would this be successful in a state with six months of winter? Excelsior and Wayzata both have successful downtown area's and both have major roadways that go past but not through their downtown's. What draws traffic off the main county road or highway and into the downtown? Is the fact that Mound has no other way past it other than through it a blessing or a curse to it's effort to become a destination. I'd say it is a blessing because the traffic is already there, Mound just needs to figure out how to get them to stop.

  2. We are not trying to make people bike or walk. We are about giving people safe, accessible choices in transportation.

    I believe we need to take things as they are, and make the most of them. It is fortunate that Mound has consistent and regular traffic through it. Of course people need to get to their jobs and destinations, even if they aren't in Mound. And you know what, they will still come through town still if they have to drive 5 mph slower. They will continue to navigate through the intersections if they lose a lane.

    And I would say your last sentence in a different way, Jdub... Mound needs to figure out a way to _invite_ them to stop.

    This is about setting an comfortable, welcoming environment that people will find intriguing and creates value. Both in a community sense, as well as a dollars and cents.

    A great comment Jdub, and this is creating fodder for a future post for me. Thank you!