Opinion

Retorts: There’s a place for us, I think

THIS SCENE in Washington Square, Manhattan symbolizes the conjunction of music, water and people (Wikipedia).

Every era has its lingo and buzzwords, which are buzzwords in and of themselves. In the Sixties the solution to everything was peace and love. In the Seventies the key term was self-esteem, while the Nineties made us all yearn for empowerment, without quite knowing what that meant.

In the not-quite new century, we run across terms like “trigger” and “micro-aggressions,” which conjure up a bad dream of a world in which state college sociology professors seize power and require that instead of greeting people with a simple “hello,” we hug it out.

Today’s weird words even include pseudo occupations. A reporter for the Los Angeles Times recently listed a source as a “social media influencer,” which to me sounds like a part-time Starbucks worker who spends a lot of energy on Facebook and Twitter, telling other people which fads, movies and candidates to like or loath.

I do, however, like the term “placemaking.” It’s defined in this way:

“A multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. Placemaking capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being.”

Placemaking is sort of like love; hard to define or achieve, but you know it when you experience it, and it’s well worth all the effort put into it.

In my previous column, I was chewing over the possible remaking of the one-time prosperous “Uptown” area of Garden Grove, the commercial district revolving around the nexus of Chapman Avenue and Brookhurst Street.

For a generation or so from the Eisenhower years to Nixon’s second term, that was the retail center of gravity for the Big Strawberry.

Developments in retailing, populations, technology and environment have changed so much. We don’t cook at home so much; we don’t buy at the department store so much. The “car culture” as we have known it – everybody owning their own internal combustion beast – is slowing giving way to a world of electric SUVs, Uber and designer bicycles.

Slowly but surely, the traditional shopping mall – enclosed or not – is yielding to new “things.” The most successful “things” will be appealing “places” that pleasure the eye, the heart and the pocket book.

Imagine this for Brook-Chap. Inviting, well-lit signage that identifies an interesting place. A bridge that arcs across Chapman unifying the two biggest pieces of the puzzle. A portion of the Promenade dedicated to a small public park with kids’ play equipment and a tranquil fountain. Soothing music – along with a few upbeat tunes – establishes a tone for the area and entertains the patrons.

A small amphitheater where high school choirs sing Christmas carols in December and patriotic songs in July adds to the ambience.

The architecture is not beige-bland but that sweet spot where individual expression and intelligent design come together. People arrive not just in their Toyotas but also in Ubers, on a streetcar or by bicycle. The whole area seems to vibrate with light, music and the sound of human voices as people talk to each other instead of just their smart phones.

Wait, you say. Sounds good, but how do you accomplish this? Redevelopment is dead, and that area is divided among dozens of self-interested property owners. Frankly, I’m not sure. But I do know that first there is the dream or vision, or a wacky-seeming idea. That’s where all big vistas and fascinating places begin.

Jim Tortolano’s Retorts is posted on alternate Wednesdays.

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