This is one of the gems of downtown. The One Financial Plaza building was originally going to be a “gold box” plunked down next to the Municipal Group on Court Square, but the developer, David Chase, saw the wisdom of giving this building a set back which facilitated a magnificent view of one of Springfield’s “City Beautiful” gems. Doing so also created the space on which the downtown’s best used public space now sits.
*Most (some?) of the ledge areas defining the tree space and the fountain are high enough to accommodate sitting.
*The design of the plaza blends in to the surrounding sidewalks in such a way that pedestrians enter the plaza by default.
*Restoring the fountain creates a centerpiece and other pieces of public art make the space visually stimulating.
*The formal symmetry of the plaza, and the appropriate trimming of the trees create sight lines through the entire space which creates a high level of security for pedestrians.
*Having outdoor tables/seating for the cafe, along with numerous benches gives the plaza a constant human presence giving people what they most want to see in a public place in a city: Other people.
*The presence of a “vending cart” located at the opposite corner of the plaza from the cafe, adds color and balance, and gives the plaza an outdoor hub for conversation and exchange. (How terrific that the cafe and the hot dog vendor coexist, understanding, I assume, that together they create the critical mass for people and energy which can attract more people and more energy; a win, win.)
*While there are places for “customers”, it is clear that the benches are for general public use. There isn’t any ambiguity as to whether an individual may, or may not sit without purchasing from either the cafe or the cart.
*On most days the cafe keeps its door to the plaza propped open, doing their level best to overcome the one major flaw in the plaza…
*The “Darth Vader” windows all around the bottom floor of the building make it visually “impermeable” and discourage ingress. The building now houses an amazing gallery for local university art students, but from the outside a passerby could just a s easily believe that the lobby is a storage container for storm troopers. Even the cafe can be hard to find, and impossible to see from the outside, if its door isn’t propped open.
What to do?
Replace the windows, at least at ground level, with non-tinted ones to give the plaza user and even passers by an easy view of the great things going on inside.