Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, France

What Makes a Place Great?

Let’s continue to look at what you can do, or perhaps should do, with a space you identified for a “do-over”.  If you haven’t already, you may want to take a look at I Found a Space. Now What? to get caught up.

After you’ve done some initial activation in a space and “planted the petunias,” how do you create a great place to ensure that the community will return again and again?  The Project for Public Spaces (PPS) believes great places serve as a stage for our public lives.   So, you need to make sure the space can host a variety of events and social gatherings, be a spot where friends and families can meet, and is a place that the community loves and calls their own.

PPS developed a Place Diagram that outlines four key qualities that make a great place:  Sociability, Uses and Activities, Access & Linkages and Comfort & Image.   While a place may not have all four qualities, it should have a least two or more.  PPS also has developed a check list to help evaluate your place.

PPS Place Diagram

PPS Place Diagram


Let’s take a closer look at each quality represented in the diagram.

Access & Linkages

A great place has connections to its surroundings. It is not only visible up close but from a distance – how far away do you need to be to see the space?  A great place is easy to get to and accessible by bike, foot, bus and transit — in addition to a car.  Remember: even if you build it, they may not come if they can’t get there.  And, it needs to be available at all times and to everyone.

Comfort & Image

A great place has a good image, is comfortable and presents itself well – does the place make a good first impression?   People need to feel safe in the space, including after dark, and want a place that is clean.  And, a great place has plenty of places to sit so people can linger and relax.


Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, France

Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, France

Uses and Activities

PPS considers activities the basic building blocks of a great place.  Having something to do at a place gives people a reason to return.  Programming a place will help keep it energized.   Activities could include farmers’ markets, classes, festivals and concerts.   The place should also be adaptive to other uses.  Places need to function in all types of weather.  Also think about maximizing the use of a place.  “If you want urban spaces to work overtime, you want them working at night,” says James P. Batchelor of Arrowstreet.


This is probably the most difficult quality for a place to achieve but once it is attained, it becomes a great place and one to model other places after.   You know you have attained it when people come to the place to meet and interact, both with friends and strangers, where they feel relaxed, comfortable and experience a strong sense of place.

What Great Place will you create?