…and Sarasota’s nowhere on the list! What about Island Park? No Arlington Park? Payne Park got snubbed? Well, it should probably be noted that this ranking was assembled by Planetizen and Project for Public Spaces largely through crowdsourcing, meaning that the results are as much a measure of how vocal a handful of passionate, supportive communities are. Not that there aren’t some great public spaces on the list, starting with the surprise top spot: a traffic circle in Normal, Illinois. Traffic circles, even if they successfully calm and smooth the flow of traffic, are usually dead space. But Normal took on the challenge of bringing dead space to life, and they are justifiably proud of the results.
The Circle is a multi-functional public space located in a roundabout that provides community green space, re-circulates storm water into a public fountain and improves traffic circulation. Designed by Hoerr Schaudt landscape architects, the circle creates an energy that draws people together. Located next to the Children’s Discovery Museum, bustling Amtrak station and planned multi-modal transportation center and within walking distance of Illinois State University, the circle creates a micro-community of travelers, patrons, students, professors, families and children as they gather and congregate on their daily journeys.
During the day, the circle is vibrant and alive with children playing in the grassy areas, visitors coming for a place to sit and enjoy an ice cream or friendly picnic back dropped by the charming tree lined streets home to local businesses and shops. It is also the location of many community events, including the annual Sugar Creek Arts and Sweet Corn Blues Festivals, and a farmers market.”
Sarasota has more than its fair share of public spaces, mostly in the form of parks. The three mentioned at the top of this post are standouts, but so are Pioneer Park, Whitaker Gateway, the little pocket park where Mietaw Drive joins Osprey at Hyde Park, and our very own beloved Laurel Park. Streets are also public spaces, and Sarasota has some gems here as well, among them Main Street, Lemon, Cherry Lane, and Hawkins Court. There are also the multi-use recreational paths, or MURPs: one at Island Park and another east of the Trail between Siesta Drive and Webber.
What is your favorite public space in Sarasota? Which local public space needs the most improvement? Which is most ripe for an innovative makeover?