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Old 04-03-2014, 11:12 PM
 
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Sacramento has a whole series of "squares," resulting from the city's original design. Downtown is split into 320 by 340 foot blocks, and early in the city's history, some of those blocks were set aside for public use. This may have been by John Sutter Jr., who was responsible for the city's design, or instituted later. There are a whole lot of parks in Sacramento, but our square-block city parks, spaced at regular intervals through most of downtown and midtown, are a unique feature. Despite their identical shapes and sizes, they work differently in practice.

The most important one is Plaza Park, renamed Cesar Chavez Plaza in the 1990s after the labor leader who marched to Sacramento in 1966 with thousands of migrant farmers. It sits in the center of civic and office buildings, including City Hall and the central library, and a federal building that until recently was the downtown post office. A 1926 office building was converted to a hotel a few years ago, with its best rooms facing the park. Back in the 1970s Plaza Park was better known as "Wino Park" (local rock station KZAP's broadcast studio faced the park, and DJs would provide updates on what the winos were doing) and there are still street folks there, but it's one of the most active corners of the city. In the summer months (May to November) there are farmer's markets every Wednesday, which draws a big crowd from the tens of thousands of people who work downtown, and Friday nights are "Concerts in the Park," free concerts which draw big crowds. There are also special events, like wine and beer festivals, and a day-long annual music fest called the LAUNCH Festival (part of a week-long series of concerts culminating with a big day at Chavez) but LAUNCH blocks off the park and charges admission. Back in the 1920s and 1930s it was where people came to rant about politics--the IWW, Communist Party, Ham & Eggs and other movements would bring a soapbox--or itinerant street preachers to seek lost souls. Chavez was mostly devoid of politics until the Occpy movement a few years ago, which required police efforts to remove after a few weeks of protest encampment. It gets pretty quiet at night since very few people live around downtown. The park itself is tree-lined with lots of shade, partially grass/ground cover, with radial concrete paths leading to a central plaza with a 1930s Art Deco fountain. In front of the fountain is a brass statue of A.J. Stevens, former chief locomotive designer of the Southern Pacific Shops, and on the other side of the fountain is a stage, with a statue of Cesar Chavez leading UFW members to Sacramento.

My second favorite is Fremont Park, named after soldier, explorer and former US Senator John C. Fremont. Like Chavez, it's a "square" shape, with lots of trees, more grass, and a smaller central fountain, plus a few recently-added statues of giant pots with ceramic images of the region molded into the pots. There is also a kids' playground. Fremont Park gets a lot of festival use, including a summertime "Hot Lunch" concert series during the lunch hour, and evening film festivals using an inflatable screen. There are a lot of residents nearby, so it has a neighborhood park feel, and several cafes with outdoor seating face directly onto the park.

Third is Marshall Park, named for James Marshall, who discovered gold at Sutter's Mill. It's another shady, tree-lined park with a lot of grass area, and more curvilinear paths than the radial paths of the last two. In the center is a cylindrical building, the Hart Senior Center, a drop-in center for senior citizens. Marshall Park has residential buildings on three sides, mixed with a couple of offices, and one row of businesses that includes a couple of restaurants, a couple of bars and a live music venue, making this park quiet during the day but very noisy at night from the revelers across the street.

Next up is Winn Park, named after General A.M. Winn, former military governor of California. It has even more grass and trees than Fremont Park, at its center is an Art Deco concrete building that once was the nerve center for a network of fire department call boxes. Before the days of cell phones, if you saw a fire you'd pull a switch on the call box to summon the fire department. A light would light up inside this building and the operator would call the closest fire brigade to report to the call-box and investigate. It went out of use and sits vacant, but a few years back a neighborhood group cleaned it up for a one-day "open house" tour of the building. There is also a playground here. The neighborhood around it is mostly residential (aside from a sushi restaurant on one corner) so it has a very quiet, neighborhood feel. In addition to the big deciduous shade trees, the park is surrounded by a square of Mexican fan palms along the sidewalk, which don't provide much shade but give the park a distinct look.

Roosevelt Park is primarily for sports, with baseball, basketball and soccer fields. There are trees along the outer perimeter of the park, flanked on two sides by state offices and two sides by low-rise condominiums (one strictly residential two-story, one four-story with shops on its ground level.) It's pretty quiet except when games are being played. They have a farmer's market too, on Tuesday mornings.

There are several other "square" parks--Muir, Grant and Stanford, and several central city parks that are bigger or smaller than a square block. Tree shade is critical in Sacramento, where, unlike Portland, we have more sunny days than pretty much any other major city on the north American continent. Temperatures break 100 in the summers, but because it's a dry heat, sitting under the shade of a tree with a cool drink makes even those 100 degree days comfortable.
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Old 04-03-2014, 11:38 PM
 
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nah. This is what the pro-density people seek in living, transport, and commerce:

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Old 04-04-2014, 12:47 AM
 
Location: Philaburbia
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^That is so freakin' adorable!

Or, how about this:

http://theilovedogssite.com/you-wont...so-just-watch/
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Old 04-04-2014, 08:08 AM
 
Location: New York City
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stateofnature View Post
Man, look at all those keg partiers, drug dealers and pickpockets!!
I live two blocks from Union Square and walk through it multiple times a day, everyday. Iíve never had a problem.
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Old 04-04-2014, 08:37 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tpk-nyc View Post
I live two blocks from Union Square and walk through it multiple times a day, everyday. Iíve never had a problem.
You actually thought I was being serious and not sarcastic? Look at the rest of the thread.
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Old 04-04-2014, 08:44 AM
 
Location: Jamestown, NY
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IC_deLight View Post
So if it looks like a giant parking lot but isn't then it doesn't "disrupt the urban fabric", but if it looks like a giant parking lot and is then it "disrupts the urban fabric". A bit hypocritical?

A "town square" need not be a large unused space in the middle of town. Plenty of other town squares are based around a central amenity (e.g., courthouse) with other commercial enterprises surrounding them. They also have ROADS going around them so that people can get there from where they live and so the businesses there can ship and receive.

This continued focus on a "place for people to gather" sounds like something out of a bad sci-fi movie. Self-proclaimed planners seem to think that people are herd animals except for the planners who know best for the rest of us. The common thread among your posts is cramming people together whether it's by transit, housing density, or other means. Gotta tell you that most people do not share your desire to live like hamsters.
Well said!!! Actually, I think at least in some of these squares in Europe may have been where they gathered to watch public executions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by urbanlife78 View Post
You are aware humans are social animals and it is common for humans to cluster together and gather in places. Have you ever been outside of your house and gone to a bar, festival, or any place that had more than just you in it? That is what a place for people to gather means. People use these spaces for all sorts of activities.

Also, the places I posted are not unused space in the middle of a town, they are both very active squares in a very active city. Also, both the squares I posted do have roads around them, though in Europe you have a better chance of finding a town square surrounded by buildings instead of roads.

The square in Portland is across the street from the courthouse building.
What sorts of activities does this square support that the other squares you mock don't? The only thing I can see is that it might be a venue for open air concerts. Certainly eating lunch sitting on the hard steps in the sun with all the noise echoing around because of the buildings closing it off might not be to everyone's taste. Many might prefer some shade. Benches are more comfortable than cement/stone steps. Certainly other squares can support the few vendors/farmers market tents shown in your picture.

Lots of small towns and cities in the Northeast have much more park-like squares. These are perfectly capable of providing space for downtown workers to eat their lunches and for food truckers or produce vendors to set up. The fountains that you mock help minimize traffic noise. Perry Square Park in downtown Erie, PA works fine for that city. It provides for everything that Courthouse Square in Portland does but in much more pleasant surroundings for the people who live and work in the area. It also has beautiful gardens in the summer months. This photo shows the farmer's market that's there most days. Perry Square Park

Last edited by Linda_d; 04-04-2014 at 08:56 AM..
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Old 04-04-2014, 09:57 AM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda_d View Post
Well said!!! Actually, I think at least in some of these squares in Europe may have been where they gathered to watch public executions.



What sorts of activities does this square support that the other squares you mock don't? The only thing I can see is that it might be a venue for open air concerts. Certainly eating lunch sitting on the hard steps in the sun with all the noise echoing around because of the buildings closing it off might not be to everyone's taste. Many might prefer some shade. Benches are more comfortable than cement/stone steps. Certainly other squares can support the few vendors/farmers market tents shown in your picture.

Lots of small towns and cities in the Northeast have much more park-like squares. These are perfectly capable of providing space for downtown workers to eat their lunches and for food truckers or produce vendors to set up. The fountains that you mock help minimize traffic noise. Perry Square Park in downtown Erie, PA works fine for that city. It provides for everything that Courthouse Square in Portland does but in much more pleasant surroundings for the people who live and work in the area. It also has beautiful gardens in the summer months. This photo shows the farmer's market that's there most days. Perry Square Park
What parks have I mocked? I am unaware of any mocking that I have done.

Also Portland is known for its parks, if being in a square doesn't work for you, there are many of tree filled parks with benches that will meet your needs.
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Old 04-04-2014, 11:15 AM
 
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When I travel, there are very few things that I enjoy more than serendipitously stumbling upon a "Town Square" type set-up that is done really well. This thread has me thinking about what exactly goes into making an optimal "Town Square." Obviously everyone will have their own set of parameters, but these are the things I generally look for:

  • Appropriate scale. Ideally, it shouldn't take more than a minute or two to walk across - anything more than two normal city blocks in length and it's starting to lose intimacy.
  • Roads are around the perimeter only, and not bisecting the square.
  • Fronted largely by a variety of narrow-lot dining and retail. The more diversity in these amenities, the greater number of different people will have a reason to traverse the Square, at all times of day. It bugs me when a Square is fronted by the blank walls of big government buildings, or office towers without ground-floor retail.
  • The perimeter roads should be narrow and slow, helping to enhance the connection between the Square and the surrounding amenities, and making the task of crossing between the two as least daunting and unpleasant as possible.
  • Some amount of greenness, even if the Square itself is not grass. Shade is good, too.
  • But it's also good to maintain sightlines to the perimeter. No fencing around the perimeter, and provide as many footpaths into the Square as possible (obviously this is more of an issue if it's a grass surface, as opposed to a solid artificial surface where people can just enter and exit the Square any place they want). Jackson Square in New Orleans has always bothered me in its violation of this; I've always felt like it's turning it's back on the surrounding city, with the fence around the whole Square and limited number of access points. It's a big turn off, to me.
  • Ample places to sit - preferably moveable tables and chairs!

With all of this in mind, the place I've been on this continent that comes closest to checking off all of these boxes is the Santa Fe Plaza.

The newly redone Market Square here in Pittsburgh, which someone brought up earlier in the thread, is really growing on me, too. At first, I missed the grass, and thought it was a bit too sterile, but now that the trees have grown in a bit, I feel a lot better about it. Plus, they actually went all-in with the moveable seating, which seems to be the rarest of the criteria I listed.
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Old 04-04-2014, 12:01 PM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ohiogirl81 View Post


Ones with grass and trees.
That's false, I love parks with grass and trees. I consider myself a Portlander and an Oregonian. We love trees and nature. But there is a difference between a town square and a tree lined park with paths cutting through it.
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Old 04-04-2014, 12:05 PM
 
Location: Philaburbia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by urbanlife78 View Post
But there is a difference between a town square and a tree lined park with paths cutting through it.
Sorry, pal, but you're wrong and it doesn't matter what you consider yourself.

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