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WHY ARE TOWN SQUARES IMPORTANT?

Town Squares have been an important part of public spaces in communities around the world for centuries. They are the civic heart of our cities, places of celebration and protest where the shared values of the public are expressed. They are meaningful, flexible spaces where an entire community feels welcome to gather for arts, culture, commerce, play, and conversation.

 
 

WHAT ABOUT EUGENE'S TOWN SQUARE?

Eugene’s Town Square should celebrate our unique heritage and the things our community loves most. Below are a few examples of how other communities across the country have thought about their Town Squares. Like Eugene, those cities have nice summers, but not so nice winters, and yet entice people to enjoy the Town Square day and night, year round. All host a market at least some of the time, have a fountain or water feature, and celebrate the beautiful natural landscapes around them. Dive in, get inspired, and think about what would make Town Square a great civic center for Eugene.

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Washington canal park

Stewarded by a visionary client and shaped by an in-depth public engagement process, the resulting design is an authentic, flexible, and beloved local asset and regional destination, built with the future needs of the neighborhood in mind.

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The project began in a neighborhood on the cusp of a major surge in development but in need of a catalyst. Stewarded by a visionary client and shaped by an in-depth public engagement process, the resulting design is an authentic, flexible, and beloved local asset and regional destination, built with the future needs of the neighborhood in mind. The community-based RFP included a long wishlist for the park. It was all fit in less than three acres by stacking functions: everything does double duty. In the summer, the ice skating rink is a fountain, a seating terrace, and a place for farmers markets. Instead of building a typical playground, benches, fountains, steps, and art act as play structures that adults would find comfortable too. It’s a local amenity and an anchor drawing people from far. Almost thirty percent of park users come from the surrounding blocks, but parents will take a 45 minute bus ride from Northwest DC just so their kids can play in the fountain, and the ice skating rink draws from up to two hours away.

DIFFERENCES FROM EUGENE TOWN SQUARE: Canal Park is flanked by one federal building, but otherwise largely residential, commercial uses and parking are adjacent. The park is not as impacted by the traffic of major roads. 

SIMILARITIES TO EUGENE TOWN SQUARE: Both parks span multiple blocks, include regular market activities, and are within a moderate-scale urban fabric of buildings less than 10 stories tall and bounded by relatively narrow streets. 

LESSONS-LEARNED BY DESIGN TEAM: Canal Park integrates sustainability and a lushness of planting relevant to Eugene and layers play onto the park’s social infrastructure. Canal was also conceived through an in-depth engagement process and resulted in locally appropriate programming that creates city-wide and regional draw. Canal Park excels at being a family-friendly park, rich with multifunctional park elements that create a safe and dynamic environment for all visitors.

  • Location: Washington, DC

  • Cost: $18.3 M

  • Completed in 2012

  • Client: Canal Park Development Association, Inc.

  • Lead Designer: OLIN 


 

Dilworth Park

At the foot of City Hall and the hub of Philadelphia’s transit center, Dilworth Park has become an iconic destination in the heart of the city. 

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Originally known as Centre Square, Dilworth Park was laid out by the city’s founder William Penn and meant to serve as the geographic city center for major public buildings and the central marketplace. Originally, it lacked accessible space, isolated by a series of terraces and stairways. The new design brings the entire plaza to street level creating an attractive civic space worthy of its prominent location at City Hall and anchoring the open-space sequence of Love Plaza and the Franklin Parkway.  Key elements include the plaza, a lawn parterre for informal gathering, graphic paving patterns,  and an interactive fountain.  The fountain provides a year-round draw; a play feature in summer, then transforming in winter to an ice rink .  Integrated into the fountain is artist Janet Echleman’s Pulse, a kinetic representation of the transit lines passing below and expressed with illuminated ribbons of atomized fog rising through air. 

DIFFERENCES FROM EUGENE TOWN SQUARE: Dilworth is built over a transit station, is one, single block rather than multiple, and is part of a larger city. 

SIMILARITIES TO EUGENE TOWN SQUARE: Both  are central, downtown civic spaces of roughly the same size that host weekly markets and the Philadelphia weather patterns are surprisingly not too dissimilar from Eugene, even though Pennsylvania gets more snow. 

LESSONS LEARNED BY THE DESIGN TEAM:  Dilworth has overcome its reputation as an unsafe space to become a favorite public place in the city. The park balances art, flexible programming including seasonal events like a winter market and permanent features like a cafe, attracting users at all times of day and year.  It is a destination and a day-to-day space that people pass through, get together, and show off to out-of-town visitors.

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA

  • Cost: $55 M

  • Completed in 2014

  • Client: center city district

  • Lead designer: urban engineers


Campus maritus

PPS worked with community organizations and stakeholders to create a concept for a new urban park that would attract people of all ages and backgrounds, day and night, year-round.

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Working alongside the City of Detroit, PPS developed a vision for a concrete island that had historically been the heart of downtown. The geographic origin point of the city had become surrounded by lanes of traffic and cut off from the downtown fabric. PPS worked with community organizations and stakeholders to create a concept for a new urban park that would attract people of all ages and backgrounds, day and night, year-round. It occupies 2.5 acres of downtown, enough room to host thousands of visitors for large events including the annual Detroit Jazz Festival and Superbowl XL. The park also features lush landscaping, a dynamic water feature, varied seating, a bistro, permanent and temporary art, and an ice rink and a Christmas tree in colder months. Since its redevelopment, Campus Martius Park has been the heart of social and economic rebirth in downtown Detroit attracting suburbanites and major businesses alike. 

DIFFERENCES FROM EUGENE TOWN SQUARE: Campus Martius does not have an adjacent civic building and is located in Downtown Detroit, which is much denser.

SIMILARITIES TO EUGENE TOWN SQUARE: Downtown Detroit has also faced the challenge of enticing people to visit and Campus Martius is similarly bounded by several streets. It is also part of a network of open space and offers helpful insight into how downtown parks and plazas could link together over time. Both spaces also span multiple blocks and demand thoughtful transitions across streets and at corners. 

LESSONS-LEARNED BY DESIGN TEAM: The presence of diverse, flexible programming tied to several anchor tenants and the buzz of a local workforce are key components to Campus Martius’ vibrancy. Local business and civic leaders raised over $20 million towards the park’s redevelopment, making it  a social and an economic success story. It has won numerous design and planning awards and demonstrates that small spaces can host regional and national events, proving that even a park the size of Eugene’s Town Square can capture the world’s attention

  • Location: DETROIT, MI

  • Cost: unknown

  • Completed in 2004

  • Client: City of Detroit

  • Lead Designer: Rundell Ernstberger Associates