Under the guise of the Hemming Plaza Subcommittee, Councilman Don Redman is urging the Mayor to immediately remove tables and chairs from Hemming Plaza.
History has proven that removing amenities doesn't produce the solution Councilman Redman desires. Instead, it makes downtown a little worse. An example of what Councilman Redman proposes took place in San Francisco's United Nations Plaza a decade ago.
San Francisco city planners are now working on plans that could reintroduce some outdoor seating along Market Street, the citys major thoroughfare, from Civic Center to the Embarcadero. Granite benches were removed from Market Street in the 1990s after business owners complained about homeless people, according to a 2010 study.full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/us/in-san-francisco-a-push-for-public-benches.html
Neil Hrushowy, an urban designer for the city who is working on the Market Street project, said that past planning based solely on the fear of quote-unquote undesirables was not good for urban design and did not actually work.
There is a pretty broad agreement that depriving the public of seating is not going to solve the problem of who has access to public spaces, Mr. Hrushowy said. The question is, how can we happily coexist? Indeed, the homeless still hang out in United Nations Plaza, a 2.6-acre pedestrian mall whose benches were removed 10 years ago.
In early 2012, the subcommittee went as far as soliciting public input on what to do with the space in the form of a survey. When it came to the question of removing all tables and chairs from the park, 70% of the respondents were against the idea.
What to do with Hemming Plaza isn't a complicated issue. A brief summary of a few cost effective concepts to breathe life into the park was provided by Transform Jax earlier this year as an example.
Previous Metro Jacksonville Hemming Plaza Coverage
April 4, 2012 - Redeveloping Hemming Plaza
April 17, 2012 - Ten Principles for Creating A Successful Hemming Plaza
October 22, 2012 - Hemming Plaza to be Destroyed?
Looking to convert Hemming Plaza into a space that attracts people, the Hemming Plaza Subcommittee has continued to ignore the public's concerns about the Subcommittee's desire to remove benches, tables, and chairs in the park. Let's hope the Mayor's Office and the rest of the Council take a different approach with this public issue. If not, the future of downtown Jacksonville isn't as bright as many of us would like it to be.
Article by Ennis Davis