DESIGNER COLUMNS & BLOGS / Design & Architecture

Posted in Design & Architecture on April 27, 2015 2:36 pm EDT

Church in the Public Square

An architect's take on innovative public space use -- and church -- in Taylors, S.C, called Taylors TownSquare. Church Designer revisits the town's public space experiment and reports.

Taylors TownSquare, Taylors, S.C. Image by taylorstownsquare.com.


 

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TAGS: collaboration, community connection, community space, mixed use,

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By Ron Geyer

One of the privileges of being on my own professionally is the freedom I have to take on iffy propositions. One of my favorite uncertainties is an experiment called Taylors TownSquare. It’s an effort to create public space where none now exists. It has the potential to transform a community.

Background

Taylors, S.C., is an area part way between Greenville and Spartanburg in the northwest corner of the state. It was once a well-defined community with a collection of commercial buildings at its center and a busy mill and homes at its edge. Now it’s little more than a zip code loosely connected to the community’s historic boundaries. The mill no longer runs (despite signs of life as home for small businesses and artists’ studios) and most of the commercial buildings have been demolished to make way for a parking lot.

Premise

The Internet has encouraged the theory that community can exist anywhere like-minded people gather. At some level that’s true. But such groups are more likely to be constituencies than real communities. The premise of TownSquare is that community requires presence, and that presence requires place. Even people who don’t agree can establish community if they’re in each other’s presence. But in Taylors’ case, there is no Town Hall, public square or similar place to do so. It needs to be created.

Strategy

Taylors First Baptist has begun inviting members of the community to have lunch together. They meet in the former Taylors Post Office near its center. Every month since October 2012, about 50 people -- residents, business owners, and public officials -- have done just that. Those who show up spend about a half hour talking informally, most of an hour hearing short presentations from local businesses and organizations, and the rest discussing their vision of and for Taylors.

Taylors First Baptist has begun inviting members of the community to have lunch together. They meet in the former Taylors Post Office near its center....

The idea is not to create a constituency, a coalition or a task force. It is, in a way, to create a Petri dish -- a container that encourages and supports the growth of relationships. To be sure, bad things could grow there. But the believers at Taylors are able to [be] part of it, as are the homeowner next door and the owners of a landscaping business.  continued >>

 

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