What is a “Third Place?”
Why Is It So Important?
All of us know those special “cool” places we seek out when we want to experience personal fulfillment beyond our First Place (home) and our Second Place (work).
These places have certain characteristics we enjoy. They present socially diverse, culturally engaging environments. These “social condensers” or “civic cafes” encourage open conversation and create places for all levels of a community to come together. They allow the suspension of social and political distinctions that have made us increasingly divided and isolated.
Ray Oldenburg, in The Great Good Place (1989), calls these locations Third Places. Third Places are critical to a community, according to Oldenburg. Dom Nozzi, AICP, summarizes Oldenburg’s notion of Third Places:
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They are distinctive informal gathering places, they make the citizen feel at home, they nourish relationships and a diversity of human contact, they help create a sense of place and community, they invoke a sense of civic pride, they provide numerous opportunities for serendipity, they promote companionship, they allow people to relax and unwind after a long day at work, they are socially binding, they encourage sociability instead of isolation, they make life more colorful, and they enrich public life and democracy. Their disappearance in our culture is unhealthy for our cities because . . . they are the bedrock of community life and all the benefits that come from such interaction.
Other experts like William H. Whyte (City) and Fred Kent, Founder of Project for Public Spaces www.pps.org, have described the distinctive characteristics of a successful Third Place. It must be readily available to all groups – either free or for a nominal charge — to enter and purchase food, drink, entertainment, be educated or partake of other activities that are present within. It must be easily accessible to neighborhoods, community stakeholders and visitors. It should be a place where people feel welcome and comfortable, and where they are encouraged to enter into conversation with one another. People who go there should anticipate meeting old friends and making new ones, and they should expect to take away something they cannot normally find in other places.
Examples of important Third Places include cafes, parks, museums, libraries, playing fields, churches and bars. A good new Third Place builds its own constituency. It gets people to form routines — for example, alfresco lunches, morning lattes or the children’s storytelling time. This encourages people to use new paths. In other words, supply will create demand.
Oldenburg points out that desirable experiences will occur when there are places that are conducive to them — or they will not occur at all. When certain kinds of places are not active, certain positive experiences disappear. A Third Place is not something to look at, it is something to live within.
Today, the City of Winter Park is, itself, a Third Place. It is envied and studied by cities and planners locally, regionally and internationally. Citizens and visitors alike know and enjoy the long-ago developed Third Places within our Third Place, like Central Park, Park Avenue, Mead Gardens, museums, sidewalk dining, the golf course — the list goes on. Over time, some of these places have even changed location, like our library, hotels and post office.
As a 30-year citizen I’ve been blessed to live and raise our two daughters in Winter Park. I would encourage not only the preservation of our past and present world-class Third Places, but also ask that we all support our city’s process of envisioning our future. Continuing to create new Third Places that help further express our rich diversity and ability to socially and intellectually connect with one another may make us one of the very few cities that can continue to do what others cannot.
Larry, I agree. We are already preserving our public 3rd places and prepared to invest in new ones. The interesting challenge is to plan and execute additional 3rd places in Winter Park that are authentic, useful, and used. Suggestions anyone?
Thanks Pete. Regarding your great question, there are certainly areas of opportunity for newly forming places to consider and get involved. One is the historic Morse Blvd corridor, originally planned as a highly walkable pedestrian oriented gateway/street to Park Ave & linking both lakes at either end. Over time, the kind of place making that we’ve seen before can result thru infilling of empty (dead asphalt) openings along Morse with new small food/dining courtyards, sole-proprietor offices, live-work residences, bike lanes extending from the Park Ave/Central Park/Station area to the Valencia College/MLK Park/Village area. Similar to what has occurred along New England from Park Ave to Denning.
Larry, for years the many property owners along Morse blvd have petitioned the city to add (allow) on street parking along Morse Blvd at least from Denning to Virgina ave or even better to New York ave. This option has been studied and the community would benefit. The relationship between on street parking and the building facade gives the pedestrian a level of comfort and a sense of protective orientation between the roadway and the sidewalk. The enhanced value of entering the Winter Park downtown along Morse blvd would greatly be enhanced and the community based development you describe would happen. In my opinion.
PS: Keep up the good work.
“Third Places” is a good term to describe some alluring gathering places in our “new” Winter Park. That’s because in today’s topsy-turvy Winter Park, residents come Third. First comes Government. Second is special interests. For example, Downtown Winter Park is now a Government Surveillance Zone. This means that everyone in Downtown Winter Park is under Government surveillance. Government cameras, like something out of a George Orwell novel, are now suspended from some of the black posts on some of the street corners. The Government refuses to say whether or not the cameras have yet been equipped with facial recognition software compatible with the “Real ID” photography on your new drivers license. If so, there could be a Government database that tracks your every move, forever. The Government may also secretly audio record your private conversations, without your knowledge or consent, in some “Third Places” such as outdoor restaurant tables, park benches, etc. What all this tells us is that Government has lost its place in Winter Park as servant of the people. And it’s up to the residents to tell City Commissioners to put Government back in its place, to ensure that all of our “Third Places” become OURS again.
So many patrons have a bite to eat then spend some time in the library. Little ones have a wonderful sense of place and library and ice cream is de rigeur for one little one. The library makes the downtown so — livable. As per usual the needs of tourists so that a hotel expands goes against the needs of residents. Especially the little ones. The new location next to busy 1792 is urban and will have the same problems as the downtown library.