June 28, 2005

The Importance Of ‘Third Places’

A livable neighborhood has more than a place to live and a place to work. It's got another place - a third place, as CoolTown Studios explains, noting Ray Oldenburg's book on the topic -- an appealing community gathering place, not for official events, but to hang out. That's what Cheers was; that's what the Central Perk coffee shop and the diner were in Seinfeld. And that's another important anchor function the new library in Saxonville could have provided.

(aside: I hope all the shortsighted Town Meeting members who voted against the library, thinking that this year's snapshot-in-time financial situation was a good reason for making a decision that impacted 20+ years, saw the story in yesterday's Globe about how the state's financial problems have bottomed out, and revenues are on the upturn. By the time the library building affected our budget in a couple of years, state aid could be up. But these folks couldn't possibly see that over two decades, financial trends just MIGHT have changed....ARGH....)

Anyway, CoolTown Studios last week pointed to an outdoor beer garden of all things in the midst of Astoria, Queens (part of New York City). "By day it's welcome for kids and parents with a full Czech restaurant menu, and by night it's abuzz with gen xers and yers, accompanied by live bands on some weekends."

Of course, a Third Place doesn't necessarily have to serve alcohol. They can be cafes without alcohol, or even public squares. Shopping malls are the closest things to this in much of suburbia; but they can't touch the well-designed public square or street designed for strolling, lined with cafes, that much of Europe (and Montreal) enjoys for this function. (Photo below: Geneva's old town)

Old town, Geneva

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