Public Space Fanatic

Product and Ideas for Public Space

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.

Snugplay at Denver’s Meet in the Streets

Snugplay Interactive Play Elements

Snugplay Interactive Play Elements

This past weekend Streetscapes Inc. set up a demonstration play zone  at Denver’s Meet in the Streets.  Meet in the Street is being used as a planning tool by the Downtown Denver Partnership, RTD and Denver Parks to identify potential ways to engage Denver residents and visitors along Denver’s 16th Street Mall.

Our demonstration project featured four distinct zones –  a kid play space using large interactive play elements from SnugPlay and an imbarimba ( a musical instrument from Freenote Harmony), – two seating areas located on the edge of the play areas ( a Rune bench, a custom surfer bench and a North Lakes bench), – folding tables and chairs (Original Bistro) and two Pillow chairs under shade canopies for resting, relaxing and refreshments and a bean bag toss game for anyone interested. The seating area was completed with the K-base and Milk casual seating. The area was bordered with two Wilshire fiberglass planters and two Urban fiberglass planter filled with Toto Lemon Rudbeckia, Crocosmia Lucifer and Veronica sunny Border Blue perennials.

The large interactive play elements used in the play zone were a hit with both kids and adults. The youngest kids to play in the area were 14 months old. The oldest were the adults who either played with their kids or reverted back to their own childhoods. We had several families that visited the play area both days bringing additional family and friends along.  Here’s part of several conversations that we overhead in the play zone – Mom.. Justin it’s time to go.  Justin … Why?

The Imbarimba were played by a wide spectrum of age groups that included kids, teens and adults, individually and as groups. Wheel chair bound visitors managed to get some riff’s in too. Some musicians played for a few seconds, others for minutes at a time.

The bean bag boards had a  variety of gamers – both kids and adults.  Some who  were avid players, other that were just beginners. However, the combination of players were exciting to watch – fathers and sons, mothers and daughter, women and men; husbands and wives, girl friends and male friends. Some kids tossed the bags into the game board from a feet away.

Visitors to Meet in the Streets used the shade canopies and seating area to catch their breath, take a break from the 90+ degree weather, hold conversations with friends and watch the bean bag game competition.  Having seating on the edge of the play area allowed parents to watch their kids play, visit with friends, check their email and just relax.

The fiberglass planters and flowers were an experiment on our behalf to create an additional point of interest.  We specifically chose the  Crocosmia Lucifer because of it’s unique appearance. We wanted to determine if anyone would notice.  The experiment was a resounding success.  Visitor along the mall did notice the plants. Many visitors shot photos of the flowers or copied information from attached plant cards

Based on feedback from Meet in the Street visitors and the kids who got upset about leaving the play zone, our play zone was an unqualified success.

WSJ Off Duty Fold Scores



The Wall Street Journal in it’s Off Duty section July 16 and 17th highlighted “Fold Scores” – Portable and Stackable folding chair for indoor and outdoor entertaining.  They concluded that their stylish and non-generic chair put the cool in collapse. We beg to differ.  The Fermob Original Bistro chair put the cool in the collapse.  View more deck, pool and patio seating.

Flower Pot Materials

Boulevard Planter System

Commercial grade flower pots and planters are usually available in five different materials – concrete, fiberglass, GFRC, thermoplastic and wood. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Concrete planters are made of concrete cement. Concrete plant pots are excellent for use in applications where durability and longevity is important. They require minimal maintenance and can double as security barrier. In high wind zones and coastal areas, concrete planters are the planters of choice.

Fiberglass flowerpots are made of glass fibers in single or multiple layers of chop strand mat that is held together with polyester resins. Gel coating is added to the fibers and resins and the process is completed by coating the planter pots with polyurethane enamel or ??

Fiberglass planter pots are ideal for interior and exterior applications and the material of choice for decks, roof gardens and balconies where weight is issue. Created using form shaped molds, customized or creative fiberglass planter may be configured into unusual shapes, styles and sizes.

Glass fiber reinforced concrete – GFRC – flower containers are made with Portland cement, glass fibers, sand; water and a combination of color and polymer curing additives. The interior of GFRC flower receptacles are dampproofed while their exterior may be sealed or unsealed depending on the specified finish.

GFRC flower pots weight approximately 1/3 the weight of concrete planters but provide the heft and scale that is expected in large outdoor projects. GFRC planters share many different style in common with fiberglass planters.

Thermoplastic flower receptacles are made of rotationally molded low linear density polyethylene and contain ultra-violet inhibitors to prevent cracking and crazing. The lightweight pots are easy to handle during installation and durable enough to move around without chipping or breaking. Outdoor thermoplastic pot are value priced and are easy customizable in large quantities.

Traditional wood planter boxes usually consist of containers or boxes made with wood planks. In a break with tradition, commercial grade Boulevard wood planterboxes consist of an inner waterproof fiberglass liner wrapped with an outer layer of environmentally friendly and sustainable thermally modified wood. The sustainable wood is resistant to decay, twisting and warping and it designed to last for 25+ years of service.

In applications where traditional wood plank planters would be placed in-line end to end, against a wall or in corners, the Boulevard planter system allows one to select the planter sides that should contain wood panels. This feature can significantly impact planter and project costs without reducing the associated visual impact.

To view commercial grade outdoor planters, visit Streetscapes Inc.

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