The Importance of Public Spaces in our Neighborhoods

The Importance of Public Spaces in our Neighborhoods
The end of November marked the beginning of construction of a new public plaza in Downtown San Diego. On Nov. 29, demolition of the Robinsons–May department store began. The building, only 27 years old, is to be replaced by a 1.3-acre addition to our historic Horton Plaza.

This and other recent examples point to our recent re-understanding of parks, plazas and open spaces as critical components of our urban environment. The San Diego Union editorialized: “Park improvement is among the most important undertakings now before the city. It should have the cordial co-operation of all.”

The quote is not from a recent U-T San Diego editorial, but one written in 1910 — a call to move forward with the implementation of the 1908 Plan for the region, “San Diego: A Comprehensive Plan for its Improvement,” prepared by landscape architect John Nolen. The plan laid out the first system of parks for our region.

More recently, a column in the San Diego Union-Tribune asked, “What, then, is the measure of a great city or region? Its education systems? Its arts? Its business inventiveness? All of the above, but the most overlooked measure is a city’s dedication to public space.” This appeared in a Nov. 28, 2008, column by local author Richard Louv.

The public realm is once again being understood as a critical element in making cities work for the health and well-being of their citizens. Public health professionals have joined with design professionals and others in…
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