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The city had Circle Park right the first time



Oh, one thing I didn't have a chance to yammer about at Oct. 13's fine "Urban Vibe" panel.

Circle Park. Oh, Circle Park -- you shuttered little island brimming with potential urban energy. You source of endless headaches to a sometimes unimaginative city. You unwitting experiment in blending downtown redevelopment with less enlightened policies concerning, say, oh, the homeless.

I suppose the good news is that Circle Park will reopen in 2011. The not-so-good news is that it seems the park's rebirth as a veteran's memorial smacks of a somewhat cynical, somewhat lazy end-run around truly addressing the park's place in its urban environs -- its immediate, noisy, lively, untidy urban environs.

I'm all for public spaces that honor the sacrifices of America's men and women in the armed forces -- spaces of quiet reflection. Circle Park is not that public space. An island parklet surrounded by the constant whoosh of traffic, heavily used strip malls, set in the broader context of a historic neighborhood? The park should absorb and respond to those vibrations.

That's why I loved Kasey Baker's award-winning original design, realized in 2003. It was unserious and engaging, and reflected the restless energy of the area. (The only thing missing: skywalks on either side to make it even more welcoming.) Now she's an implicit object of blame for having created a park that through some unidentified design flaw -- whoops! -- let the homeless in.

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Too bad, because the city had it right the first time.

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