Friday November 9, 2007
Independent Sector, a respected organization that often
speaks for the not-for-profit sector, spoke at the City Club
Forum today. A small part of her address touched on building
community and praised the work of real estate developer Ron
Sher. A quick search found very similar comments in a talk
recently posted on the Independent Sector website.
... I was recently reminded of
the power of such partnerships when I met a
remarkable entrepreneur by the name of Ron Sher.
After years of profitably developing shopping
centers, Ron decided that it was possible to both
make money and improve community life through what
urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg has called “third
places” – gathering spaces outside the home and the
workplace that foster broader, deeper, and more
At one shopping center, near his hometown of
Seattle, Ron got to work. He brought in trees,
created small gardens, and added sculptures. He
mixed in an independent half-price bookstore, a
public library, and a branch of the local City Hall.
He invited an arts center run by the Children's
Museum to set up shop, arranged a series of events
open to the public, and built a large chessboard for
people to match wits, all while successfully renting
out commercial space to national chains and local
businesses. He even managed to get a police precinct
to move in. And he made a profit.
Ron described his views this way: “I am not talking
of the ‘state-centered’ democracy that we most often
think of, but rather the society-centered democracy.
Placemaking creates livable cities with safe, civil
Third Places where democracy happens, can be
learned, and modeled. The question is how we are
going to have a sustainable world where the quality
of people's lives is improved and where people have
greater joy, greater meaning, and are more
considerate of one another.” ...
Above: a public space in a Sher shopping center
Below: the corridor in the Square's northeast
2004 when the Coral
Company bought Shaker Square from Key Bank there was talk of
improved public outdoor spaces. Six months later the team to redesign the
public spaces was selected
more ... Today, two and a half years
later, other than the corridor shown above and an improved patio
for Sarava customers, we see no new public spaces.
For more than
Saturday mornings each year the
North Union Farmers Market
transforms Shaker Boulevard at the Square into precious public
space. Our patios
around the Square are wonderful May through September. But given
our Cleveland climate and the noise of traffic on the Square,
outdoor public spaces have only limited daytime fair-weather use
in the spring and summer. For year-round and day-evening use,
indoor public spaces are needed.
Thanks to the
Coral Company, the Farmers Market has used indoor space on
Saturday mornings in recent winters. (See
our page.) For months the Square's southwest
hosted a school facility for the Cleveland Museum of Art.
I can visualize — and I'm sure
you have ideas to add to this list — a place where
groups can meet, classes and public lectures can be given,
seniors can tutor school kids, and more. A place where visitor and rental information might be
available, where half-price tickets to cultural events (and even
Indians games), Shaker Square gift
certificates (you heard it here first), and SHAD
memberships can be bought.
All this can bring more traffic,
more business and more vitality to the Square, while enriching
the daily lives of its neighbors.
With about 15 percent of the Square still vacant,
we should give more thought to Placemaking — to creating
indoor public spaces
where our neighborhood's sense of community can grow year-round.
Arnie Berger, webkeeper
For more on Placemaking,
UNIVERSITY CIRCLE VISITOR
In July 2008
UCI (University Circle Incorporated) opened
a visitor and living center on Euclid Avenue and
Only a few visitors can be
accomodated at a time, so it's not the sort of place
this page envisions. But what it does - give out
information and brochures - could easily be done in
what we hope to see.