Sustainability | Localization

Building the City Center

A sense of belonging in the Town Square.

Dawn Nelson
3 min readOct 24, 2023

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Another Monday Dispatch ~ October 23, 2023

Just some art to convey my sentiments about the city center. Art and photo by author. © Dawn Nelson.

In the center of my city, there is a space that some town folk insist be designated a common space, similar to a European piazza. It has a poetic, romantic appeal.

The idea of a public common space in the center of a city or town certainly appeals to me. It is a space that by establishing it as held in common, acknowledges we are people before commerce.

Aside from good ol’ power to the people, what I especially like about the idea is that it affords opportunity to connect green space in the city center.

Essentially, we can network a matrix of trails for nonmotorized transport into the center of the city. Walk, bike, roll. A meeting point for all the neighborhoods, right next to the downtown public library. Even more valuable is that this space is adjacent to a major bus transit hub for the city and county.

What better place for a town square?

As an urban space design issue, it is certainly feasible. I know some people are concerned it will only create more space for homeless folks to loiter. Perhaps. But the answer to homelessness is not to make sure homeless folk remain invisible. That is an issue that should be addressed by other means.

As a design issue, creating a town square connected to multiple trail networks throughout the city creates new access points for people to travel and be embedded in the city they call home. It affords a sense of belonging. It creates new carbon free modes of travel as an option and alternative to driving a car into town.

There are other challenges, of course — devoting such prime real estate to public space means relinquishing the potential for substantive revenue in taxes. It does seem rather silly to let that go.

Still.

I find it difficult to imagine a community without a town square that affirms the identity of the town as a unique place to live. Without it, there is no ‘there’… there. It is an empty commercialism, people always moving along to spend another dollar.

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Dawn Nelson

Artist, writer, strategist ~ writing creative nonfiction, memoir, essay. WIP: 0100 Series & The Sunday Dispatch.