When you walk around an area – a neighborhood, a downtown or a park – what makes you want to linger or get out of these as fast as possible?
The answer is the built environment, also known as what is built where. This is made up of the way that structures interact with people and other structures. It has an impact on how the area is used and by whom.
On a local level, take a look at two urban developments: Centro Ybor and BayWalk, (both of which I frequent, and both of which I enjoy). At Centro Ybor, one gets from the parking garage to the center by walking past a couple of derelict buildings and going over train tracks. At BayWalk, one walks out of the garage and nine times out of ten hears live music from a lone musician, trumpet case open and ready to receive your pocket change. You walk through a path lined with benches and public art. It is usually shady. BayWalk stands before you as a lure to get you there.
Downtown Clearwater is facing a major shift in its built environment.
Though developers who have come to downtown Clearwater have admired the street grid, the block lengths and the scale of Cleveland Street, how successful they are in creating an urban neighborhood that will invite people to linger is still to be seen.
A new streetscape, the construction of Water’s Edge, Station Square and Clearwater Centre, the restoration of the Telephone Exchange Building (formerly the home of a plasma center on Cleveland and Garden) and the completion of projects by the Church of Scientology will all contribute to the downtown experience.
The idea that all of these will create an environment that makes social experiences happen is an exciting one, one that will depend on the public and private sector working together to make it happen.