Elizabethtown Rose Alley Lights


Light is varied.   sunlight, starlight, moonlight

Light is rousing.   blinded by the light, turn on your heartlight, you light up my life

Light is inspiring.

Desmond Tutu tells us: Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.

From Charles Dickens: It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.

Desiderius Erasmus extolls: Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.

And in your downtown, you have the amazing power to create it. To control it. To bend it to your needs.

Thinking outside the bulb

Lighting in your downtown can be so much more than standard lights on a pole.

Not that there is anything wrong with appropriate and attractive pedestrian-scaled lighting along your streetscape. But the conversation and creativity attached to lighting doesn’t ”“ or at least shouldn’t ”“ end there.

What do you want to accentuate in your downtown? Where do you want to draw a crowd? What needs to stand out after the sun goes down?

There are numerous sources of lighting that can do all that. Twinkle lights, LED in-grade lighting, accent lighting on fountains, blade signs, sculpture, play equipment, projecting light to create an image on a wall, window display lighting, bollard lighting ”“ these are just a handful of options you can use to create a more lively and dynamic setting with light.

Plugging in

At certain times of the year, your efforts will be made easier if you install high-mounted receptacles on standard pole mount lights for add-on lighting during holidays or any time you wish to add special decorations to your existing light fixtures.

Seeing is believing

In Elizabethtown Borough, Rose Alley is enhanced and safely lit using a few wall mounted fixtures and LED in-grade lights.

Elizabethtown Rose Alley at NightElizabethtown Rose Alley LightsElizabethtown Rose Alley Lights

A new outdoor dining and gathering space along Zum Anker Alley in Lititz is adorned with a canopy of lights.

Bulls Head Outdoor Space

Binns Park is a great example of a non-traditionally well-lit space. In the entire park which covers a ¾-acre parcel along Queen Street in the heart of downtown Lancaster, there are no pole lights. Instead, lighting in the park is comprised of façade lighting, canopy lighting, under seat lighting, under wall lighting, and when needed, stage lighting.

Binns Park Lighting

Be bold like Saegertown, who transformed a steel bridge which was a daytime icon, into a nighttime show piece in the community, celebrating holidays, Friday night football, and the French Creek passing below.

Saegertown Bridge - BeforeSaegertown Bridge - After

Star light, star bright, ”¦

A word of caution from www.darksky.org, “Human-produced light pollution not only mars our view of the stars; poor lighting threatens astronomy, disrupts ecosystems, affects human circadian rhythms, and wastes energy to the tune of $2.2 billion per year in the U.S. alone. ”¦ [International Dark Sky Association promotes] one simple idea: light what you need, when you need it.”

Allegheny College History Walkway

Allegheny College Bicentennial

Dedicating 200 Years of Allegheny College

With the sun trying to break free from the clouds on a brisk October afternoon on Allegheny College’s historic campus, President James Mullen spoke eloquently about both the history of Allegheny and the future. Standing on the new Bicentennial Plaza with local and regional leaders, the orchestra, and choir seated behind him, President Mullen pronounced that,

“This day, however, should be about something more than the remarkable story that is Allegheny’s history ”“ it should also be about the possibilities of our future; as much about what can be as what has been; about the chapter that our generation will write and the legacy we will leave. As we celebrate the first two centuries of Allegheny College, we are accountable to define its third.”

Mostly, his remarks were inspiring the current of future Alleghenians to aspire to greatness and carry on the traditions and heritage that defined Allegheny College since 1815. In part, though, his comments were alluding to the two great construction projects that were being dedicated on October 17.

First is the Allegheny College History Walkway which tells the story of those first two centuries in over 40 bronze plaques that align the processional walkway that graduates walk during commencement ceremonies. The walkway begins in historic Bentley Hall and culminates at the new Bicentennial Plaza, where one weekend in May, graduates will receive their diploma from the President and make that transition from student to alumna.

Allegheny College History Walkway

Second, the Bicentennial Plaza is a new elevated special event plaza adjacent to Schultz Hall at the bottom of Bentley Lawn. For many Allegheny alumni, this lawn is their memory of commencement and has become a sacred space. The new plaza is carefully integrated into the space to not obstruct views to historic buildings, while providing a necessary elevated space on which to facilitate those vastly important commencement ceremonies. Details of the plaza include re-use of salvaged brick, custom iron-work railings, historic lighting, and bluestone paving. Allegheny College’s Class of 2015 (the Bicentennial Class) will be the first to graduate on this plaza. Weather permitting, of course.

Allegheny College Plaza

For more information about Allegheny College’s Bicentennial, please visit www.allegheny.edu

Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices


Technically Speaking
A Leg to Stand On
The Flip Side
Signs as Art
Signs, signs, everywhere a sign”¦

Your downtown cannot speak. It does not have an actual voice to welcome visitors, tell them where to turn or travel, or indicate the location of all the great things to do in your community. So unless you provide a personal guide for each person who visits your community, your signs are doing your talking for you.

Have you read them / looked at them / noticed them lately? Are they doing the job you want them to do? Are they the voice of your community that you want to hear?

And from a more technical engineering and landscape architectural viewpoint, what do you need to know to make your signs stand up to that challenge?


Technically Speaking

Are you familiar with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices from the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration? This publication is the all-encompassing guidebook when it comes to traffic control devices, or what we commonly refer to as signs.

Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices

The manual states:

Traffic control devices shall be defined as all signs, signals, markings, and other devices used to regulate, warn, or guide traffic, placed on, over, or adjacent to a street, highway, pedestrian facility, bikeway, or private road open to public travel by authority of a public agency or official having jurisdiction, or, in the case of a private road, by authority of the private owner or private official having jurisdiction.


The 862 page manual lays out, in detail, pretty much everything you need to know if you are going to put a sign in your downtown (and beyond).

So that’s the technical resource you need. And trust me, our engineers are quite familiar with this document and all it contains.

But what else is there to consider when it comes to signs?

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A Leg to Stand On

A lot of attention is given to the sign itself ”“ the shape, the color, the words/message. And surely, that is necessary. But you really shouldn’t stop there.

Have you considered what the sign is mounted on? Per standard, many signs must be posted on U-channel posts or square or round, tubular posts. Other larger signs, on wooden break-away posts.

Steel Bollard Sign Post DetailSquare Tube Sign Post Detail

However, if you have control of the post material ”“ what it is made of, its color, its height, and size ”“ you should also consider and plan for the aesthetics of this prominent and plenteous element.

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The Flip Side

And what about the back of the sign? You may not have thought about it but rest-assured, people are seeing the backs of your signs as well as the fronts.

For the Lititz Wall of Remembrance, the front of the sign is a place where people pause and pour over the names off all the honorees. However, the back, which could have easily been left a canvas of stone, functions as a welcome sign at that park access point. You can see this in the second project image shared here: https://www.derckandedson.com/portfolio-item/lititz-wall-remembrance/

In West Chester, the backs of the signs and the posts are simply painted to compliment the visual vibe of the front of the signs.

West Chester Sign Back

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Signs as Art

In some communities, the prominence of signs takes on a whole new meaning like in Grove City. Visit this past blog post to be truly inspired by what a sign can be: https://www.derckandedson.com/expressive/

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Signs, signs, everywhere a sign”¦

Ideally, every sign in your community ”“ whether they are informational or directional, vehicular or pedestrian, for traffic control or for aesthetic enhancement ”“ should be coordinated. A downtown wayfinding plan can help bring all these elements together. Check out some examples here:

Nashua, NH: https://www.derckandedson.com/portfolio-item/rivier-crosswalk/

Downtown Lititz: https://www.derckandedson.com/portfolio-item/lititz-wayfinding/

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Juniata outdoor classroom

Juniata Outdoor Classroom

Juniata College dedicated a unique classroom space this past fall. The outdoor classroom, a class gift from the class of 2014, is constructed and ready for general campus use in warmer weather.

Juniata outdoor classroom

Derck & Edson created the schematic designs that included everything from how the classroom should be oriented on the site to the details for the steel and wood benches, tables, stage, and chalkboard, and landscaping.

The classroom accommodates +/- 20 students in this outdoor setting near the busy heart of campus behind the Swigart Enrollment Center. One of the coolest features in this classroom is the chalkboard with built-in cover. The ”˜wings’ of the stage ”“ which create a backdrop for the presenter when open –  close in to cover the chalk board to protect it from the outdoor elements when not in use.

Juniata outdoor classroom

This was a locally sourced project with much of the actual construction being performed by local contractors and Juniata College staff.

seasonal displays NYC

Seasonal Displays

Seasonal displays

Tis the season ”¦ for seasonal displays. So this month, our focus is on exactly that. Whether you are going all-out for the December holidays or have a future display in mind, these tips may help smooth your path to success, from a more technical engineering and landscape architectural viewpoint.

Shedding some light

One of the practical aspects of seasonal displays to consider is power to light-up your displays. Even in Rockefeller Center, thought is given to the appearance of displays during the day as well as once darkness falls.

seasonal displays NYC

For pole-mounted features, we recommend integral outlets provided by the pole manufacturer, mounted near the top of the pole. Many manufacturers do this as an option. This will eliminate the need for unsightly extension cord runs from ground-mounted power sources which are not only unsightly but prone to vandalism. Power outlets should have an in-use weather cover that allows for power cords to be connected without moisture intrusion to the outlet.

Planters aren’t just for plants

Another easy opportunity to add some seasonal interest is the use of planters. Planters are heavily used in the colder cities to provide some color and texture in the winter months. Two great examples are Chicago and Minneapolis. The latter begins the winter “planting” in early November consisting of copious amounts of evergreen foliage, white birch logs, red twig dogwoods (both living and cut stems) and a variety of broadleaf evergreen cuttings (many with berries). In more temperate climates, winter annuals can be effective for adding color and texture to highlight the seasons. Examples include pansies, ornamental cabbage, and poinsettias, to name a few.

seasonal displays Minneapolis MN


A great way to announce something special in your downtown or a section of your downtown is with seasonal banners. We recommend always consulting with the street light pole manufacturer when adding banners, flags, or seasonal displays.

It’s important to remember the phenomena of wind loading when adding items such as banners to light poles. The force of wind will have a surprising effect on the structural integrity of the pole. Not only do the poles need to be sturdy enough to withstand the effects of wind loading but also the bolts and concrete foundations need to be sized properly. Usually the pole manufacturer will design the banner arms in conjunction with the poles so that they are up to code. For the foundations and bolts, it is best to consult a registered structural engineer.


Not only do outdoor water features need to be de-watered and weather proofed but some thought should be given to the aesthetics of these displays. What might a borough do to infill a fountain display to provide some seasonal interest to a fountain pool?

seasonal displays Mt Dora FL

Some communities have creatively utilized fountains for winter displays. In the instance of fountains with elevated walls containing a basin, there are many precedents for building a structure over the basin in the cold weather to create an elevated platform for holiday decorations, most notably the town Christmas tree. Of course the water is drained, so the empty basin serves as a great location to conceal power connections and any other mechanical needs for the decorations.


Not everyone can deal with frozen conditions as well as a Disney feature film. However, these tips may help you keep things safe for those who want to build a snowman or enjoy any other downtown activities when conditions are less than ideal.

It may sound simple, but you can take some clues from the PADOT road crews on winter walk management. First, pre-treatment can be a very effective means of combating predictable snowfalls and consider brine (salt and liquid solution) for larger areas. Be sensible with the distribution of any de-icing agent. Try to spread the material in the center of the walks that are crowned (drain to each side) or along the higher side of sloped walks. Let gravity and traffic draw the excess material across the spaces. This may reduce the material you need to use and avoid higher concentrations of unused material accumulating at doors, steps, and building walls.

Since sidewalks are most commonly concrete, a concrete-friendly de-icer is recommended when icing is problematic. Common rock salt is popular but is corrosive to concrete and leads to salt spray that may harm plants. It is also not effective in temperatures below 24 degrees Fahrenheit. Better choices are available such as potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, or calcium magnesium acetate (CMA). Each has its pros and cons but generally perform better than traditional rock salt.

Concrete is most susceptible to de-icers in the first two years after construction, while it is still curing. So it is best to use de-icers as sparingly as possible to avoid spalling (a flaky type of shallow deterioration) the surfaces. If de-icers must be used, then it is best to clear the slush off the surfaces as soon as possible.

Just add fire

“Fire and Ice” festivals have gained in popularity which has brought the notion of s’more-making into the downtown lexicon. Some communities have embraced the winter months and taken to keeping the fire burning throughout these colder days, using firewood and metal fire pits. Other alternatives are gas fire pits which can be managed without the mess of firewood and residual ash.

Larger public spaces can be energized in the winter months with the addition or incorporation of fire-based elements. There is a level of liability control that must be understood by the property owner, but not an insurmountable issue. Also, access to utilities, in the example of gas fire pits, must be considered. Extending the appropriate utilities, including electric, during project design and construction will set the stage for these elements in the future.

crosswalks icon


This month, the focus of our downtown outreach is crosswalks. Here we will share information from a more technical engineering and landscape architectural viewpoint. Simply click on any topic or question below to jump to the content. Read some or read it all. And if you have questions, please ask.

You will notice that we use Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation (PennDOT) as a reference point. Most of our downtown projects are in Pennsylvania but please be assured, as we are working in many states outside of Pennsylvania (including Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maryland, Ohio, New York, Tennessee, and Virginia, to name a few!), we make it our business to be up-to-date and educated on the rules and regulations in all the cities, towns, municipalities, and boroughs where we work.

The Basics
Crosswalk Enhancements
What About Stamped Asphalt, Resin, and Pavers?
A Little about Bump-outs, Bulb-outs, and Curb Extensions
Concerning Raised Pedestrian Walkways or Speed Tables


The Basics

In Pennsylvania, PennDOT designates three basic crosswalks, type A, B, and C. These conform to the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) published by the Federal Highway Administration.

  • Type A ”“ This crosswalk is designated by two parallel lines. Lines are 6” to 24” wide and are set a minimum of 6’ apart. This is the simplest and most commonly seen crosswalk.
  • Type B ”“ Consists of the Type A parallel lines with the addition of 12” to 24” wide 45 ° diagonal lines.
  • Type C ”“ Consists of the Type A parallel lines with the addition of 12” to 24” wide perpendicular lines. We sometimes call this the piano key design.

standard crosswalk

In addition PennDOT allows three standard decorative designs

  • Type D ”“ Stamped asphalt ”˜courtyard’ pattern
  • Type E ”“ Stamped asphalt ”˜herringbone’ pattern
  • Type F ”“ Stamped asphalt ”˜offset brick’ pattern

decorative crosswalks

Each decorative pattern must be accompanied by the basic 6” minimum white border. If you are planning to use other patterns and/or colors, you will need PennDOT approval.

PennDOT typically discourages anything that is not their standard detail. Townships, boroughs, and cities are generally more receptive to creativity in crosswalks.

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Crosswalk Enhancements


Basic crosswalk striping is painted with reflective paint for economy. But this can lead to the need for frequent maintenance.

Better quality striping methods include hot liquid applied thermoplastic with reflective glass beads. Sheet applied markings are also available with glass beads imbedded. These are fused to the road surfaces using a heat source. This method is more durable but also involves a greater implementation cost.


At midblock crosswalks, advanced warning signs and pavement markings may be desirable, advisable, or required by governing agencies.

More advanced crosswalks may use overhead lights and pavement-embedded lights which are more costly to install and maintain. Flashing lights may be advisable where the driver may need additional advanced warning of pedestrian crosswalks. These are also frequently seen at school zone crossings.

PennDOT has been distributing Yield to Pedestrian signs to be placed on the centerline of roadways. The theory goes that they are more likely to be seen (and obeyed) by drivers than curbside signs. The signs may be placed at intersection crosswalks or midblock crosswalks.

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What About Stamped Asphalt, Resin, and Pavers?

Stamped Asphalt

Stamped asphalt involves a process requiring the heating of existing asphalt surfaces to a plastic state. Then decorative templates are pressed into the hot asphalt using compaction equipment. Finally color is applied using a host of different methods.

The least expensive coloring method involves applying the color as a liquid. Thicker and more durable coatings are produced in sheets that are melted and pressed into the asphalt. This method is accepted by PennDOT.

Resin Surface

Another application is a poured in place resin surface. This material is sold under the brand name AddaPrint, among others. This material is cold-applied at a ¾” thickness on existing pavement and then stamped with decorative patterns. Typically this requires milling of the paving to create a flush surface. One of the benefits is that aggregates can be embedded in the liquid to increase traction.


Pavers are generally smaller, segmented, cast or fired units used for paving. They are an option for decorative and durable crosswalks. Unit pavers can be a very durable installation provided a strong concrete edge and base detail is used to contain the pavers.

Unit pavers rely on interlocking pavers to disperse the force of rolling wheels. Consequently, selection of patterns is critical to maximize the interlocking feature. The herringbone pattern is one of the best for maximizing interlock.

Unit pavers are typically not acceptable on PennDOT roadways however they are used on non-PennDOT city and townships roads.

Some common varieties of pavers include:

Concrete unit pavers ”“ an economical choice among pavers

Typically a thicker paver is used for crosswalks as compared to those used in residential applications (+/- 3 inches). These pavers can be set in asphalt or sand beds on top of reinforced concrete slabs.

Clay brick pavers ”“ maximum durability

Clay brick pavers typically hold their color better and are more expensive than concrete pavers although the installation method is identical. Some cities have brick streets that have been in service for more than a century. Remember reading about Portsmouth, NH? (link to Portsmouth blog) safekeeping

Asphalt pavers ”“ something new

Asphalt pavers are not common nationwide, probably due to a limitation in the colors and patterns available. However, they are widely used in New York City and Europe.


Stone cobbles are perhaps the most durable of all paving products and also the most costly. Cobbles are commonly split from granite or basalt. Cobbles wear like iron and are readily recyclable. Cobbles are typically set in a sand setting bed on a gravel or concrete slab base. New Castle, DE benefits from the use of cobbles. (link to patina/New Caste blog) – patina

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A Little about Bump-outs, Bulb-outs, and Curb Extensions

Bump-outs, bulb-outs, and curb extensions are three well used terms, all referring to the same thing. They are popular as a safety measures on urban streets.

The primary purpose is to allow cars and pedestrians to see each other better where parallel parking occurs. Other benefits may include:

  • Providing additional room to create curb ramps for accessibility
  • Narrowing the roadway and encouraging drivers to slow down
  • Decreasing the time pedestrians are crossing in the roadway

Drawback of bump-outs include:

  • Complicating street drainage by interrupting continuous curb lines. May require installation of more drainage structures
  • Increasing traffic congestion by preventing right turn movements through parking lanes/shoulders
  • Complicating efficient removal of snow along curb lines

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Concerning Raised Pedestrian Walkways or Speed Tables

Speed tables can be an effective method of traffic calming on local streets. Benefits include:

  • Raised tables allow improved accessibility for pedestrians since they eliminate curb ramps
  • They are preferred by emergency services over speed humps because they are more gradual and less jarring to on a large emergency vehicle.

However, drawbacks include:

  • Roadway drainage complications which may require additional drainage structures.
  • Slowing of snowplowing operations. Snow plows tend to damage pavement surface that changes abruptly.
  • Creation of a hindrance on collector streets for emergency services where speeds are higher.

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ra ·ti ·o ·ci ·nate \ËŒra-tÄ“-ˈō-sÉ’-ËŒnāt\ verb

to reason

We did a lot of talking over the past year. We talked about confabulating, fabricating, and embracing ~ zeal, fusion, and prominence. So much to say ”“ so many great places in Pennsylvania. It is hard to remember them all (but you can see them all here!).

But after all that talking, we took a little time to ratiocinate ~ to reason and to think. And our thinking has prompted us to stay on course with our downtown content but to change gears for the next leg of our journey.

So, over the course of the next 12 months, we will be changing our focus a bit. We will still feature downtowns but we will also present more detailed information about the workings of various key elements you find within successful downtown settings. We will bring you insights from our technical professionals and hopefully help enhance your knowledge and exposure to design and construction concerns.

So look to hear more from us soon as we continue to confabulate, to ratiocinate, and to extrapolate the best out of our communities.

And if you have any suggestions for us, please let us know in the comments below or email us your ideas.

repetition Charlotte


repetition /rep-i-tish-uh n/   noun

the act of repeating; something made by or resulting from repeating

Copy and paste are two functions that we use almost every day in the office, sometimes with success, sometimes at our own peril. So too is the use of repetition in the built environment, a delicate balance of success and failure.

While attending the International City/County Management Association’s (ICMA) 100th Annual Conference in Charlotte last week, I was able to experience a variety of truly beautiful public spaces. Uptown Charlotte literally has a photo-worthy space on almost every corner, and many great lessons to be learned on placemaking and attention to detail. We could have picked one of a dozen great pieces of public art, a half dozen functional and vibrant plazas, and countless fountains (really, I lost count of all the great water features).

repetition Charlotte

What really caught my eye was this gracefully curved walkway next to the football stadium (home of the Carolina Panthers). For a moment, imagine this walk with no planters and no banners and it’s a pretty mundane space, but with them, the space is striking, artistic, and supremely inviting. The pattern and form created by simply copying and pasting the planter, the plants in the planter, and the banners and the repetition created defines the space and creates the vista that catches many football spectators’ eyes every fall.

There are most certainly corridors in your community that could benefit from the impact of repetitive installations similar to this one. As you walk or drive through your town, look for opportunities to add color and pattern by repeating a dynamic design element. If you are cautious and repeat the right elements, the effect can be overwhelmingly positive.

cachet Avalon NJ 1


cachet \ka-ˈshā\noun

a characteristic feature or quality conferring prestige

As summer comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on the quaint shops, intimate streetscapes, and the lazy days of summer that are what many people think of when they envision the shore towns in southern New Jersey. Not unlike many of Pennsylvania’s boroughs, this type of downtown development has been quite successful. These are places many of us return to time and again, year after year.

But what do you do when you don’t quite fit the mold? Avalon, NJ faced this problem. As a shore town, the scale of Avalon’s streetscape and architecture is decidedly not intimate. The sea breezes have ample room to blow along the boulevard and swirl within the wide set-backs.

cachet Avalon NJ 2

So the community embraced their differences. Bicyclists and joggers share the road with cars (and the occasional golf cart) with room to spare. Wide sidewalks allow for gathering spaces at almost every corner, with a full complement of site furnishings and plantings. The vibrant blue that adorns the site elements creates cachet and makes a bold statement.

How can you maximize your community’s differences and accentuate them with scale and color? What’s your community cachet?


square  /skwe(É’)r/   noun

an open place or area formed at the meeting of two or more streets

The square, town square, market square, village green ”“ we all have them in one sense or another. We think of an open public space commonly found in the heart of a traditional town used for community gatherings.

Marietta Market Square Snow


They might not be literal squares, but we have spaces, open or built that serve as our town center.   They might not even be in the geographic center of town, but they all have the potential to bring people together, no matter the reason, with a sense of community.

Some towns have planned village greens that have been preserved as parks, while other towns may have intersections of streets meeting the center of commerce, market squares today where actual market houses once stood.   And then there are the town squares that act as memorials to our fallen soldiers or our forefathers.   All of these spaces with a purpose, a reason for existing.

Growing up in Manheim, I’ve always had a certain fondness for our town square.   It was the location for many of our community events as well as the focal point for many of the anchor businesses in town: the general store, the barber, the pizza shop, the clothing store, a selection or banks, and even the funeral home.   Now, many years later and even after a fire destroyed a collection of buildings, Market Square stands as a proud example of a quintessential town square.

Now, living in Marietta, I look out my front window every day to my new town square, a lovely parklet in the middle of the town’s traffic circle.   It’s the center of town, a stop during the Memorial Day parade and the holiday candlelight tour.   It’s a focal point when giving directions to visitors and a place to chat with neighbors during the morning dog walk.

Marietta Market Square

Think of your town square.   Is it another proud example of a small town square?   Is it serving to its fullest potential?   Does it need a little sprucing up or perhaps a complete makeover?   Or, if you don’t have a square, could you create one?   Perhaps on the corner of a vacant lot, in an underutilized parking lot, or in an alley ”“ the possibilities are endless.