Ten reasons "Third Places" are important to individuals and communities
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How to encourage "Third Places"

Having described some of the many benefits of third places, let me offer just a few personal observations:

• Third places work as I described in the preceding paragraphs only when they are local; and they work best when within walking distance of the people they serve.

• With very few exceptions, third places have been and remain local, independently owned, commercial establishments. Chain establishments run by large corporations can, at best, yield less hardy forms of third places, subject to the (cash) flow of distant owners.

• While third places often seem to depend on a mysterious chemistry, planners can help foster the conditions in which they might emerge. One way is by eliminating the policies prevalent in so many zoning codes of prohibiting commercial uses such as taverns, coffee houses, donut shops, and the like, from locating where people live. These policies don’t just discourage third places, they virtually prevent them. You can’t have a neighborhood tavern or neighborhood coffee house that’s not located in the neighborhood. Another way planners can help is by promoting walkable communities, where people, in fact, are able to easily make their way to their nearby “third place.”

[Ray Oldenburg is author of The Great Good Place (Paragon House 1989), and is chair of the Dept. of Sociology at the University of West Florida. Copyright Ray Oldenburg. Reprinted with permission.]


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