Where’s Your Urban Porch?

Open multi-use spaces in our community like parks and open lots offer an opportunity for something unexpected to happen. A street fair, a pop-up shop, or some live music can easily re-purpose a city street, vacant lot or a neglected park to revitalize the space as an area to slow down and relax. When the area becomes a place to share a picnic–like the magnificent multi-city Le Dîner en Blanc phenomenon–or a space to play games with friends and family, it quickly extends the feeling of a front porch atmosphere. We can all benefit from a simple, safe place to enjoy outside our home.

Philadelphia recently revitalized an old lot at their 30th Street Station by turning it into an urban front porch space:

The new 50-foot-wide, block-long plaza replaces an unnecessary outer parking lane and barren sidewalk on one side of the station with seating, tables, shade, plantings and, depending on the week or day, perhaps music, a farmers’ market, a beer garden, or even miniature golf.  It is ambitious because, in its statement when The Porch opened, UCD said that it “sees this new space as Philadelphia’s front porch, a welcoming entryway to the city, as well as a place to linger and socialize, and to entertain and be entertained. The Porch serves to balance the indoor grandeur of 30th Street Station with the wonder and expanse of Philadelphia.”

Living in a city like Austin offers a lot of opportunities to extend our “front porch” whether its the activities that seem to pop up around every corner or just finding a place to relax and enjoy the unexpected. We’re fortunate to have lots of parks that naturally lend themselves to open air concerts and farmers markets, like Republic Square and Auditorium Shores. But when city streets close for festivals and street fairs do you ever stop to think how awesome it is? Or do you find yourself frustrated by the inconvenience of detours and traffic?

If you attended the inaugural Viva Streets you witnessed the beauty of public spaces becoming urban porches where cafes poured into our streets and became safer places to play. Similarly, DAA’s PlazaLife at Frost Bank brought play and seating that welcomed people.

Are there places or events that you think can extend Austin’s front porch? Add your comment to let us know.

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