Transit-Oriented Development
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What Makes a Great Place – Part 1

What makes a neighborhood wonderful? What makes that particular location so inviting and why do we want to hang out there? The Project for Public Spaces (PPS) has answers to those questions and not surprisingly the answers come from the community itself.

Placemaking Diagram

If you take a close look at PPS’ The Place Diagram, you will note four categories:

  • Access/Linkage
  • Sociability
  • Uses/Activities
  • Comfort/Image (I prefer appealing but I’m not the PPS , so we will go with their terminology)

If you apply these four elements to the various neighborhoods along the rail line, thinking about how TOD can improve lives becomes easy. The gaps that are missing in neighborhoods can be defined and solutions proposed. Strengths can be recognized and bolstered. The very presence of a rail station will contribute to access and linkage. Recognizing that a neighborhood needs more uses and activities can spur innovative ideas that come from the community.

One of the fundamental principles of re-energizing existing neighborhoods is to talk to the community about what they want to see. The process is driven by people and place, not design. How many times have you been in a public space where it was clear the designers never considered how people would actually use the space? You see this in the trodden pathways cutting across green expanses despite the “Stay off the grass” signs. And, why on earth would you ever want people to stay off the grass when they could be sitting there reading a book, enjoying the fresh air or just hanging out?

In addition to talking to the people who live and transit through a neighborhood, there is much to be learned by simply observing. Most of us do this subconsciously all the time. If you bring awareness to that subconscious habit it can be an enlightening experience. This kind of awareness is fundamental to creating a shared vision of where we want to be in five, 10, 20 years and beyond.

This is the first installment in a short series I’m writing on Placemaking so you can look for thoughts on specific neighborhoods along the rail route as well as further discussion on Placemaking fundamentals and looks at places where TOD-driven transformation has happened.

In the meantime, a good exercise is to think about how close Chinatown is to having almost every element on The Place Diagram and what would it take to bring Kapalama closer.

This entry was posted in: Transit-Oriented Development
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Project Lead for the Colliers Hawaii Transit-Oriented Development Group. The Honolulu Rail Transit project is underway and the time is now to work together to ensure that we have thriving communities that promote health, opportunity and sustainability for everyone. Now is the time to communicate and connect our visions for the future while working to make them happen.

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