Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd

Lisa Gray writes about Market Square Park downtown and its unfulfilled potential.

The main reason people don’t go there, says Project for Public Spaces, is that … there’s nobody there.

So what attracts those first brave souls to linger in an empty park? Project for Public Spaces suggests that basically, those people need good reasons to be there — and the more reasons, the better.

The group’s report suggests lots of powerful attractions for a revamped Market Square Park. A food stand with lots of attractive seating. A playground. And special events: a tai chi class in the morning, maybe, or a farmers market in the afternoon, or a high school jazz band at dusk. A micro-branch of the city’s public library where patrons could drop off and pick up books. And free WiFi for laptop-toting nomads.

But the strongest attraction of all — one possibly able to bring Market Square Park a day-in, day-out core of regulars — wouldn’t cater directly to people. It’s a dog run, a fenced area where downtown loft-dwellers could let their animals off the leash. Instead of feeling that dogs are unwelcome in the park, dog owners would feel invited.

Sounds an awful lot like Discovery Green to me. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Discovery Green has been a smashing success, despite the best efforts of the usual nattering nabobs to convince us otherwise. The two parks are far enough apart, and there’s enough of a need for useful public green spaces in Houston to support this, I think. But I hope that the folks who are working to make Market Square more of an attraction don’t overlap too much with Discovery Green. Let’s not cannibalize the audience if we can help it.

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