Public Spaces focus on a sense of community, amenities, and people who enjoy them.

Written by Temple Kinyon

Imagine the concept of the perfect public space, the space between buildings and businesses. Spaces serving as havens for people living and working in and around businesses, as well as visitors wanting more than just someplace to sit. A perfect collaboration at the most basic level between planners and developers of municipalities and the private sector, all with the mindset of economic development, as well as refurbishing or creating spaces inviting people in and worthy of conversation. Imagine no more. Las Vegas is full of them.

The perfect public space offers areas for people to actively participate in using the space, even if it’s just to sit and relax. Being removed from the hustle bustle of the city and protected from traffic, crime, and the weather are major elements in a public space. It must be a place to walk, stop, stand, and converse. It contains interesting things to see and do, and opportunities for play. It’s near access to public transportation and offers comfortable places to sit and a sense of belonging. The perfect public space enhances the neighborhoods around it, giving residents pride and a place to brag about with its effects transformative and valuable beyond measure. Every step in the process of creating the perfect public space must be detail oriented, always taking into account how it will be received, used, and sustained.

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Downtown Summerlin

The public space concept is not new. Many countries, including Germany and Italy, boast amazing public space that have been in existence for decades, if not centuries. Talk about sustainability. Locals and visitors from around the world are given a sense of belonging and community, surrounded by a variety of amenities. These spaces are a long cry from uninviting concrete jungles, with nothing for people to do but walk by.

“You first have to tap into your humanity to create a place where people want to be,” Amanda Burden, former NYC Planning Commissioner, explained in a 2014 TED Talks video. One of her successful public space includes Paley Park in mid-town Manhattan, equipped with comfortable (and moveable!) chairs, greenery, and easy access to public transportation, along with shopping and restaurants nearby.
When considering Las Vegas, it’s obvious we know how to plan, develop, and zone to meet economic growth goals, and it’s refreshing to know the concepts of public space are included in the current growth strategies for Las Vegas, NLV, Henderson, Boulder City, and Summerlin.

Public spaces can be funded and operated by cities or private business owners; two very different ways of funding, but with the same goal of enhancing spaces to bring people together. Maria Phelan, director of public relations, Downtown Project (DTP), explained their focus while planning is on the 3 C’s ­— Collisions, Connectedness, and Co-Learning. “Collisions are fostered between people and business owners, where conversing and collaborating take place, creating connectedness, which in turn provides sharing of information and ideas for co-learning.” Downtown Project’s 3 C’s concept marries perfectly with the public space concept. So regardless of the funding source, both public and private developers can agree how to enrich the lives of people through public space. DTP’s Container Park (DCP) is the perfect example.

“DCP is privately owned and has rules like no dogs other than during certain events and no smoking other than in designated areas, which is different than a publicly funded and operated park or space,” Maria explained. However, DCP’s open-air environment offers unique shopping and eating, places to sit and relax, free concerts, and an interactive play area called the Treehouse, all components of a perfect public space. With close proximity to transportation and the many offerings East Fremont and Downtown Las Vegas offer, DCP has taken the idea of a public space into the private business world.

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Craig Ranch Regional Park and Amphitheater (The Amp) Photo by Marc Sanchez/Vegas Helicam

Another privately funded business, Downtown Summerlin (DTS), has become the core of Summerlin, serving the community in a variety of ways. Monique Clements, Marketing Director for DTS emphasized, “DTS is the epitome of an ideal public space. Its open concept design, vast assortment of premier dining and retail, coupled with its unique lawn space, calming fountains and thoroughfares, ensures patrons can come to shop, dine, and enjoy all that a must-visit downtown destination should possess.” With public transportation options available and seasonal specialties, like the ice rink and Christmas parade, a close-knit feeling is palpable when walking through DTS.

So what about publicly funded spaces? There are hundreds of sites in the Valley created and operated with public funds that can be embraced as public space, like Craig Ranch Regional Park and Amphitheater (The Amp). North Las Vegas hit a public space homerun with Craig Ranch, offering walking paths, a skate park, a dog park, sports courts, playgrounds, picnic shelters, lush landscapes, and more, all on 170 acres of reformed golf course terrane. Mayor John Lee and the city’s vision to make this gem the epicenter of culture for the community is on track. With restaurants across the street and transportation available, there’s very little this public space doesn’t offer. “Our vision for The Amp at Craig Ranch is to provide quality entertainment, at competitive pricing, while positioning NLV as the ‘Festival City’ of Southern Nevada,” shared Cass Palmer, Director, NLV Neighborhood and Leisure Services.

It’s refreshing to know our city and neighborhood planners have taken the public space model to heart. It’s important to remain vigilant with business and economic expansion, but, regardless of funding sources, taking people into account as an integral piece in future growth and revitalization should continue to be a shared goal and one that will allow for sustainability and return
on investment.

Other Public Spaces to check out:

Tivoli Village Summerlin

Water Street Henderson

The District Green Valley

Town Square S. Las Vegas Blvd

Nevada Hwy. Boulder City

Springs Preserve