Great Places in America: 2008
Earlier this month, the American Planning Association named its picks for Great American Places. There are three categories, Neighborhoods, Streets and Public Places, and while some of them are obvious (New York's Central Park as a great public place), some are intriguing and can serve as a guide to travelers seeking out new favorite spots. Neighborhoods, streets and public spaces are deemed "great" by a number of criteria, including form, personality, sustainability, demographics, aesthetics and more.
Among this year's local winners are Baltimore's Charles Village in the Great Neighborhood category; Union Station in D.C. in Public Spaces and Clarendon and Wilson boulevards in Arlington in the Streets field.
I'm always skeptical about the validity of this kind of list (isn't a place's value subjective?), but I appreciate giving credit where credit's due. Plus, who doesn't like lists?
While I haven't been to most places on the three lists (better get out my To Do list!), I'm intrigued by the selection of some of the places, and wondering why there's no emphasis on local businesses, and little mention of access to public transportation. Aren't those important additions to any neighborhood, street or public space?
Also, what about places that weren't on the list, ones that might be below people's radar? One place that might fit into the "Great Streets" category is Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring. I don't know about the pedestrian area's eco-friendliness, and I wince a little at the generic, pre-fab feeling of it - does the world really need one more Borders, one more Red Lobster?
But ever since I moved to the neighborhood, Ellsworth Drive's been growing on me. I've realized that the people using the space -- a diverse collection of families, teens, friends of all ages -- are enjoying themselves, stimulated by the very crowd they're part of, getting along across ethnic and economic lines. Some good local businesses are there, including Strosenider's Hardware and Moby Dick House of Kabob. Plus, how can you not like a place with a farmer's market?
Do you have a place that you think should be on the APA's list? Do you think the selections are spot-on, or did the APA pick any duds?
By Christina Talcott |
October 29, 2008; 10:39 AM ET
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