Public Space Fanatic

Product and Ideas for Public Space

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The Experiential Public Space 2


Experiential public spaces to succeed require a variety of different activities throughout the day. Bike-able and walk-able activities within the space should be a priority.   Neighborhood coffee shops, restaurants and retail shops can provide a catalyst for walkable traffic. Bistro seating and curbside parklets with tables, chairs and planters will enhance the streetscape experience and expand the seating capacity of any eating or drinking establishment.

One word about parklets. Many communities are spending large sums of money for custom designed and engineered parkets. Parklets have become popular enough that many companies are now offering prefabricated parklet kits. These prefabricated parkets kits contain pedestal supports for the deck surfaces, corner post, planters screens; rectangular planters, horizontal stainless aircraft cable or decorative laser cut fence panels. These parklet cost substantially less than the custom versions and are designed to be seasonally assembled and disassembled for snow removal during the winter.

Create pedestrian and bike-able destinations with streetscape parklets. Add umbrellas to the parklets and combine multiple stall bike corrals or bike racks, decorative planters and safety bollards to the space near and around the parklet to build public vibrant gathering places with public amenities. multiple stall bike racks will encourage bike riding to the destination and reduce the stress on local parking.

Bike shelters are still relatively rare in mixed use or streetscape environments largely because they don’t match local architectural styles. However contemporary bike structures entering the market are challenging the old bike shelter norms. High density two level bike parking or offset bike parking systems combined with bike shelters can provide massive amounts of bike parking in a small foot print. Bike shelters can remove the visual clutter associated large unruly randomly parked bikes

The experiential public also demands shade in the form of natural trees, shelters, windscreens or umbrellas. Shade is often overlooked in public spaces but places without shade usually don’t contain many people. Umbrellas perfectly suited to public spaces are the large cantilever or side-post surface mounted umbrellas. Large rotating or pivoting umbrellas can provide a large amount of shade throughout the day since the shade canopy can be rotated to maximize the amount of shade relative to the location of the sun. The large umbrellas that are available with surface mounted or embedded installation options are preferable since they won’t blow away and they eliminate the small table inserted umbrellas that impact direct visual contact with everyone at the table.

Do you have additional ideas that should be incorporated into experiential public spaces. If so, we’d like to hear from you.

The Experiential Public Space

Snug Play

Imaginative Play Elements for Kids

Old shopping centers, empty big box building and other adaptive reuse projects are being re-purposed as mixed use projects. The public spaces like these newly repurposed buildings could also gain a new focus as well. In the past, the public commons would have become passive space with benches for waiting, flower pots to add a mix of color and a couple of new trash cans to keep the space litter free.  In today’s experience happy environment, our expectations about public spaces are changing. What does that look like from a walkable and experience oriented view point. Here are some thoughts to run through your mind.

Mobile device are now an important part of our daily lives and as a result, we can work from almost anywhere. So it seems logical that one should be able to charge their mobile phones, pda’s and computers in public spaces. Solar charging stations are an economical way to provide that type of connectivity.

These renovated public spaces will still need to have benches and other places to sit. But the seating should be more flexible and casual than the typical street bench found in most public spaces. A mix of seat wall benches for people watching, folding chairs for easy reconfiguration and relaxed Adirondack chairs and sunloungers for stress reduction could definitely increase lingering time.

In the experience environment, entertainment is paramount. So interactive games and experiences should be incorporated into the remodeled public space. Portable stage areas for entertainment, giant board game sets (checkers and chess) table tennis and foosball tables would be one angle to take. Stationary musical instruments are an inviting engagement tool for a diverse range of ages, musical skills and available time. Large scale interactive electronic games could be an additional option in the right environment.

In re-purposed public spaces, previously hidden bike racks belong at the nexus of all entry and exit points. Up-scaled bike parking locations with artistic bike racks will add a new dimension and an inviting element to cyclist using bikes as a standard form of transportation. A bike repair station and an air pump could also bring additional goodwill.

An experiential public space is a magnet for activities and engagement. Stay tuned for part 2.



Walking vs. Pedestrian



Photo courtesy of NCHNAPD

Photo courtesy of NCHNAPD

The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) has begun a new campaign which seeks to rebrand the word “pedestrian” to “people walking.” The new campaign also seeks to use the term “walking” to be an inclusive term for all kinds of human powered mobility involving people of all abilities.

The new campaign makes perfect sense given that “pedestrian” in it’s original meaning alluded to drab or dull or plain. Traveling by foot or walking these days are anything but pedestrian. In a complete street environment, there are wide sidewalks, street furniture, cycle tracks, parklets and shade trees to create pleasant walking experiences.

As cities and development teams move towards more housing density with mixed use projects and walkable destinations, the walking experience should be further enhanced with outdoor fitness trails, community gathering spaces and more nature. We’ve already seen an explosion of bike sharing programs, bike parking and cycle tracks because of renewed interest in mobility and health.

With neighborhoods becoming attached to bus and rail connections and retail district filled with sidewalk café’s and parklets, walking has become a lot more fashionable. And a lot healthier for everyone and anyone regardless of age and ability interested in physical activity.

This new campaign also seeks to redefine walking since movement may be propelled by any combination of arms, legs, feet and hands along with other support devices like canes, sticks, walkers, and skateboards.

Moving forward, we should experience more people walking since walking is good for us in so many ways.

Transit Oriented Development Conference

Interlude Passenger Shelter

Interlude Passenger Shelter

Join public transportation officials, transit operators, public space and mixed use development companies at the TOD Institute conference scheduled for September 27 -29 in Washington DC.  Be sure to stop by the  Streetscapes Inc display space to talk with us about bus and transit shelter, public seating, streetcape furniture and amenities for all types of public spaces.


BBQ Grills Anyone?

BBQ Butch Grill

BBQ Butch

Traditional public park bbq grills are usually either a round pit in the ground surrounded by a metal band or an elevated square or rectangular cast iron metal box.  The BBQ Butch grill changes that dynamic.  Constructed of cast stone and designed in a trapezoidal shape, this is an elegant grill.  Three grills placed side by side will wrap an outdoor park chef into a cockpit of grilling bliss with prep, grilling and display space.

Butch Community Table

Butch Community Table

The matching Butch community table mimics the shape of the BBQ Butch.

Bring on the smoke and sauce.

ICSC Western Conference and Deal Making

Snug Play

Imaginative Play Elements for Kids

It’s show time at Streetscapes. During the next couple of months, we’ll be traveling the U.S. attending industry specific trade shows and conferences. We kicked off our traveling this week by visiting ICSC in San Diego.  At the Western Conference & Deal Making conference, we are highlighting artistic bike racks, new bike parking – the Veloport and 33 Bike Locker, the Bike Depot, Snug Play (interactive play components for play zones) and turnkey water fountains.

Products attracting major attention at the Deal Making Conference – Recycled plastic tables and chairs with color accented slats, portable casual seating, solar charging stations and wayfinding information displays.

Next month, we head to Washington DC for a Transit Oriented Development and Mixed Use Conference. On display, we’ll have contemporary bus and passenger transit shelters, waiting area seating – both interior and exterior, shared work stations and power charging stations. At the DC show, we’re also going to be focused on casual and public seating, LED lighted benches and logo featured site furniture.

Best comment at todays’ event – This is the coolest contemporary site furniture we’ve ever seen. We agree – our mantra is distinctive furniture and site amenities for public spaces.

Wanted? Main Street, Public Space or Streetscape Challenges!


A friend and I are in the process of outlining a presentation for an association meeting in September. Our target audience contains city manager, main street executive directors, economic development managers; chamber event planners and business improvement districts. We’ve both attended conferences where speakers told us what we should be doing, but few offered details on how to do what they were telling us we should be doing. So we’d like to take a different approach and offer a hands-on presentation where attendee bring specific public space activation challenges that need resolution.

We know that fundraising or lack of budget is always an issue, but there are better people qualified to discuss those issues. We’d like to focus on the streetscape and public spaces – How to improve their appearance. How to populate public spaces with people. How to activate public spaces during different periods during the day. How to create public spaces that are multi-generational. How to generate enthusiasm and support for capital programs to improve public spaces and how to create public spaces that are unique and different than the neighboring communities.

We have some ideas on how we might structure such a presentation but we’re interested in other ideas and opinions. What are some of the challenges you’re facing regarding streetscapes and public spaces that could use attention. Send us your comments on the issue and provide a photo or video of the space in question. Also tell us what you’d like as an end result.

Public Space Fanatic is the blog of Streetscapes inc.  Join the Streetscapes Inc. mailing list.

On and Off Street Bike Parking

Aspen Bike Shelter

On and off street bike parking is definitely on the rise. Along with the rise in bike parking, there’s an interest in more creative and interesting bike racks. Along main street, inverted U hoop rack were the default standard. Fast forward today, we’re seeing cycle racks that create words and phrases, promote café’s and restaurants brands, brand shopping districts and market museums.

In the early stages of on-street bike parking, multiple hoop racks were combined via u-channel rails to create freestanding bike corrals. The desire to create bike parking that was more interesting led to bicycle corrals designed to look like cars, later fish and now you can let your imagine run wild. On street bike parking once again has transformed it’s self into more interesting objects – a string of bike looking bike racks, paper clips and other interesting objects.

One tool in the off street bicycle parking equation that has been missing is the combination of bike corrals and bike shelters. Cyclists are interested in the combination, but finding pre-engineered shelters designed for the urban environment can be tricky. The current bike shelter offerings tend to be bulky and un-inspired and their limited sizes can be a challenge.

But the Aspen, Pergola and Vizor pre-fabricated bike shelters may be changing that scenario. All three shelters have contemporary urban aesthetics. The Aspen and Pergola feature woodgrain aluminum powder coating that is quite suitable for upscale communities and historic districts. The Vizor stands out as a beacon of architectural design.

Another option that appear to have limited interest but could double or triple the amount of bike parking in high-density bike parking areas is the marriage of vertical and two tier bike parking systems with bike sheds. Vertical bike storage is being used extensively in apartments, condominiums and offices but has had limited success in other environments. Many standard bike shelters on the market will accommodate vertical bike parking.

On and off street bike parking is very much in demand.

Self Watering Planter Irrigation Systems

self-watering-planter-irrigation-systemStreetscape planters and city flower pots located in public plazas and right of ways have a problem.  The flower pots are planted in the spring with the hope of adding color, texture and greenery to an otherwise dull looking street. However, unless they’re provided with an ample supply of water during the growing season that won’t happen.

Flowers planted in a plant pot without an irrigation system are at the mercy of volunteers or an irrigation service company. Volunteers are not alway dependable and lose interest over time. Irrigation services are expensive if you can find them.  High local temperature swings compound the issue. A possible solution – retrofit existing planters with an internal water wicking irrigation system or consider a planters system similar to the Seacrest planter collection.

The system consist of a water reservoir(s), a sensor, a water tube for filling the reservoir and an overflow tube that is placed over the flowerpot drain hole.

To retrofit an existing planter with a wicking irrigation system, remove the existing soil and install the wicking irrigation system. Refill the planter with soil, fill the water reservoir with water and prime the system to get the process started. Once the system is working, Add plants and let the growing season begin.

Moving forward, the water wicking irrigation system in each planter pot will require new water only once every two to four weeks depending on your location.  The overflow tube will drain any excess water. Here’s a water wicking flower pot irrigation system at  work.

The planter water wicking irrigation system is available in three different configurations.  A retrofit kit systems to accommodate rectangle, round, square planters in standard planter sizes. A round and square edge back modular version for large or unusual shaped planters. And a self contained water wicking planters with the irrigation reservoirs built into the planter walls. The self contained planter are available in rectangle, round and square shapes.

Get  a jump start on the upcoming growing season by installing self water wicking planter systems today.

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