Saturday, July 04, 2009

Our Lame Town Square

When I heard, two years ago, that developers were going to tear up one of downtown's uglier parking lots and turn it into a town square, I was THRILLED. All the objections to the plan were silly ones involving apocalyptic parking shortages and supposed safety issues. The nay-sayers didn't seem to care that uptown Waterloo doesn't have a convenient and communal place for people to just sit down and relax, a place to congregate while shopping, a place to eat your food outdoors.

What I hadn't counted on was the fact that the town square designers were bone-headed morons. They tore up the old parking lot in front of Waterloo Town Square...and then they basically paved it over again, giving us a huge flat concrete area ringed with concrete seats, with a tiny little garden enclosed by -- you guessed it -- more concrete.

It looks vast and featureless and unwelcoming, but the biggest and most obvious problem is that there is no shade. I mean seriously people, what the f*ck were you thinking? Did nobody stand out there and notice that the sun beats mercilessly down on that area between 9am and 5pm? Didn't anybody say "maybe we should position an awning or some trees to block out some of the sun?" Or how about -- lord forbid -- GRASS to break up the heat reflection, or at least a water fountain?

No, the only additional feature they gave us was a metal butt-plug sculpture which -- you guessed it -- has been carefully positioned to provide no shade whatsoever.

This really is a sad bungling of a well-intentioned opportunity. The square appears to be vetted by people who never actually go outside and who have a disconcerting concrete fetish. The only other explanation I can think of -- and this is probably the REAL issue -- is that they built the square specifically for EVENTS, and therefore didn't want to muck it up with pesky "features" and "trees." The fact that those events only occur during eight days of the year must have slipped their collective minds.

So now we have a parking lot in uptown Waterloo that you can't even park on. During the day, six or seven stalwart shoppers sit along the edge, dwarfed by the emptiness. Other people sit on the plastic patio furniture that has been hastily placed in the shadow of the mall -- a shadow that doesn't even touch the square itself. The only people who enjoy the square are the skateboarders, who are managing to slowly remove those metal divots intended to keep them from having fun.

Waterloo Town Square's town square? An abject, stupid failure. A meeting place designed to repel people who might want to meet there. A two-and-a-half million dollar thud.

PS: I hear that the square "isn't finished yet," and that they're asking people for their opinions. My opinion? Rip up half of the carefully-laid concrete and put some grass and trees there, and then add seating in those areas. As for complaints about the skateboarders, well, perhaps you shouldn't have built something which screams "SKATE ON ME!" As it is they're the only people who seem to regularly use the park, so more power to them, they're filling a void. If the void wasn't there -- because people actually felt like sitting in the square -- then the skateboarders would move to another area of unobstructed concrete, because they probably don't want to skate on fingers and feet.


R.M. Lupo said...

You really nailed it. It's ugly, uninviting, and why Those Who Are They did it that particular way is baffling.

I'm also always expecting not-so-great skateboarders to careen into traffic.

Adam Thornton said...

By building a skatepark in uptown Waterloo they will ensure a future of proficient skateboarders! The ones who careen into traffic will be culled.

genxmike said...

Jules & I have gone to the square at 10pm the last two Saturdays. There were several groups of young people sitting around the edge of the square along with the prerequisite collective of skateboarder jumping all over the place. I thought it was kind of fun in a "No Old People Will Ever Come Here" kind of way. Last weekend had the benefit of 100 crappy plastic chairs randomly thrown about the square for some reason. It gave the whole place a post-skatepocalypse feeling.

Also, I like the fact that they finally created a White Elepahnt that is actually White.

Teh faIl of the public square is teh wIn in my books. And only $3 million to build!

Adam Thornton said...

I love the crappy "Coke" chairs! I also love the "Skate Zone," which appears to have achieved the goal of making sure that NOBODY is in The Square during the daytime, except for those briskly walking to the mall entrance.

I SO wish this had worked. But when something fails so badly due to sheer idiocy you HAVE to laugh! And then carry your lunch over to the park.

Unknown said...

Really curious the additional feature they gave you. A but plug!!