max ·i ·mize   verb /ˈmaksÉ’ËŒmÄ«z/ -make the best use of

How wide is the typical sidewalk in your community? “Not wide enough” is a very typical response.

Creating vibrancy on a downtown street is heightened by the ability to have outside dining spill out onto the sidewalks. When someone says they want their town to feel like a “café society,” people visualize tables, chairs, and umbrellas on the street. In Ray Oldenburg’s seminal book, The Great Good Place, he coined the term “third places.” So many Main Street programs clamor for these spaces, which are very often these outside dining spaces. Well, what do you do when your sidewalks are too narrow to accommodate tables and chairs?

You get creative.

State College Phyrst

As any Penn Stater will tell you, Friday afternoons outside of Cafe 210 West took place in the quintessential “third place.” For those not familiar, The Café was an older residential structure with an enormous setback from the street (in relative downtown terms). This deep setback allowed the owners to add a large covered awing covering three rows of tables and chairs and providing a palpable energy on East College Avenue.

Three blocks away is the Phyrst, another popular local tavern in the basement of a typical downtown building. Zero setback. Zero outside dining. Until, understanding the impact that on-street energy can make, the operators chose to maximize their street frontage with a very creative dining environment. Utilizing a sliver of the public sidewalk space, they have energized and animated an otherwise very pedestrian environment.

Have you maximized your opportunities for creating energy along your streets? It’s not just what the users experience while sitting there, but the feeling and vibe that is created when others pass by the space. Do they yearn to be in your town to experience these spaces?