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As indicated in the initial page, a primary selection criteria for the urban spaces in this website is social value, focusing on improvements to neighborhood vitality and quality of life. Work training and small business support will be emphasized, along with community building ideas. In order to limit the scope of this website, we will concetrate on modest-sized spaces, in contrast with major regional renewals.


Regardless of its purpose, an urban space needs to save a sense of identity. If it has an anchor such as a church or a museum, this may provide a substantial part of its identity, and the rest of the design would have to be arranged around this function. Ideal space framing that accentuates identity can be provided by historic buildings, which may present unique architectures or just historic memories. Some spaces have a distinct function, others offer a combination of facilities, stores or vendors, and others may include an important transportation connection.

Movie theaters and cultural facilities can provide independent anchors that reinforce other components. Smaller or specialized museums are practical candidates for providing or accentuating identity.[1]

Successful urban spaces are not isolated. They are vital memebers of a larger community. The Project for Public Spaces organization recommends engaging the "edges" or surrounding neighborhood of an urban space: "If the outer edges of a public space include a diverse neighborhood with a range of institutions that all feel connected to the space, then people will have a reason to come to the area both during the day and in the evening, on weekdays and weekends."[2]

Flint Capitol Theatre, Photo source: ©  Wikimedia,
Author: kennethaw88

New Urbanism

Most human beings instinctively seek attractive spaces. Ideally these locations would be part of, or close to, our places of work or to our homes, so that we can enjoy them often. A variety of styles of places can meet these needs, from simple well-designed intersections to elaborate centers.

The move to suburbia has often left downtown centers in a process of decay. Gradually, during recent decades, a movement to return to more efficient and "walkable" neighborhoods has grown under the ironic but attractive label of "new urbanism". We call it ironic because this often involves a return to "older" community styles. This new urban thinking also puts a premium on developments that take advantage of public transit, due to energy and environmental concerns. Of course the "new urbanism" movement includes a number of other beneficial concepts that are beyond our scope.

Transportation Connections

Transportation connections are often a key component of a revitailized urban space. The use of public transportation is an essential part of the "New Urbanism" movement that tries to make cities more livable. Effective public transportation support requires some regional planning steps:  

   "-Organize growth on a regional level to be compact and transit supportive.

    -Place commercial, housing, job parks, and civic uses within walking distance of transit stops.

   -Encourage infill and redevelopment along transit corridors within existing neighborhoods." [3]

Some sites such as Bethesda Row take advantage of their proximity to transit stops while other are built around a transit station. The Project for Public Spaces organization emphasizes the value of transportation connections:

Stations and stops become focal points in a community, especially if there is an associated plaza or public space. Even the station building or the bus shelter itself can be thought of as a place. That is, the use of it can be expanded, in partnership with the local community, to serve other public purposes. The potential uses are boundless, from a café to an art gallery to a venue for performances and markets. In this way, a great station or stop adds value to the surrounding neighborhoods and increases the viability of commercial districts by connecting businesses to commuters and new customers.[4]

Another example is the case of the Flint Farmers’ Market. When this market was relocated in 2014, particular attention was paid to locating it at a major transportation hub that 18,500 people pass through on an average day. There was also an effort to partner with with the Metropolitan Transit Authority “to have special routes within the community to bring families to the market for fresh food and provide free satellite parking for the market at no charge.”[5]

Washington Metro Bethesda Station, Photo source: ©  Wikimedia, Author: G. Edward Johnson

Urban Repurposing

An important component of developing beneficial urban spaces is the concept of repurposing, also known as adaptive reuse, where a space is adapted to a new purpose, motivated by some sort of improvement to the space or its surroundings. Most oftens a building or a larger space has fallen into disuse and neglect, and finding a new purpose for it can provide an opportunity for increased use and support for the space.

We have provided a number of examples of this in our space selections. Bethesda Row and the Santa Fe Railyard are fairly traditional cases of urban renewal, where a neglected section near downtown was revitalized by turing it into an appealing complex. Crosstown Concourse and BOK Center are instances of abandoned buildings internally remodeled for coherent uses.


No claim is made as to the accuracy of the descripions of the organizations involved, which may be subject to change. The reader should consult the webpage of the organization for their latest status. The website author assumes no responsibility for any problems resulting from using the material presented in this website.

[1] Dean Schwanke et al, Mixed-Use Development Handbook, second edition (Washington DC: The Urban Land Institute, 2003), 68.

[2] Project for Public Spaces, How to turn a Place Around, 2000, 43.

[3] Hank Dittmar et al "Introduction," in Hank Dittmar and Gloria Ohland, ed., The New Transit Town (Washington: Island Press, 2004), 7.

[4] Project for Public Spaces: Streets as Places: Thinking Beyond the Station

[5] Project for Public Spaces: A (Market) Place for Everyone.