Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Downtown and the Department Store as key "public" spaces

Last month I blogged about DC's Central Library and proposals to "co-locate" commercial space on the library site, to generate revenues to pay for renovations and expansions. See "The DC Central Library, the Civic identity and the public realm."

I mused about the key civic assets in a community, how they define the community, and whether or not communities would allow such key buildings as the City Hall, Courthouse, Main Library, or main public park to be commercialized.

As mentioned in the entry, some "public spaces" are in fact privately owned. I mentioned the railroad station--although these days for the most part these are publicly owned facilities--and while I didn't mention the primary Downtown commercial district specifically, I did mention the buildings that are/were there, such as the city's department stores, majestic theaters, signature restaurants, and other retail.

Of course, these shopping districts have long since been supplanted by the suburban shopping mall.

The Boston Globe opines about the loss that derives from the way retail shopping has changed, how department stores and the city's main shopping district have long since been supplanted, in "What is Christmas without the department store?"

For those of us with memories of the department store Santa--for me it was at Hudsons, in Downtown Detroit, but every city has its own examples, this of course resonates. Also see "How J.L. Hudson changed the way we shop" from the Detroit News.

Other resources

-- Going shopping: consumer choices and community consequences
-- Harvard Design School guide to shopping (Chapter 4 makes the point that the history of shopping is also in part about the history of women. After all, about 70% of retail transactions are conducted by women. And department stores were created to make shopping like theater.)
-- English Shops and Shopping
-- Downtown America

Demolition of Hudsons Department Store
"Final Sunset" The Requiem for Hudson's Suite, Lowell Boileau 1998. Demolition of the Downtown Hudsons Store, Detroit.

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