The Field Guide to Public Spaces is an ongoing discussion about how to build a more inclusive and democratic city. While neither exhaustive nor comprehensive, the guide is a timely contribution, capturing a moment in time when the fate of public space has never been so unclear.

St. Paul and Minneapolis are experiencing a renaissance as their populations grow. The cities are host to rapidly changing communities. As the Twin Cities slowly open back up to the public after an isolating COVID-19 pandemic, the ways in which people interact with public spaces have rapidly changed as well. In June 2021, St. Paul celebrated the grand opening of Midway Peace Park, a huge step toward the city’s goal of strengthening community connection and improving green space equity in underserved neighborhoods. 

The concept of “public” space in Minneapolis has also been questioned in the past year, as the community and the city continue to disagree over the public status of George Floyd Square and other community built monuments. Mayors Melvin Carter and Jacob Frey continue to struggle to consistently maintain an understanding of public space and related policy. The provision of community-driven public spaces like Midway Peace Park and the controversy surrounding the “reopening” of George Floyd Square are incredibly important in the context of a grander community discourse surrounding public space, its uses and intentions, and who “the public” is.

At this moment, it is crucial to consider the design, management, and use of public spaces in these cities as their respective experiences are instructive for a broader understanding of how we promote an inclusive and democratic society. The Field Guide hopes readers and community members will build on and use this work, and we encourage readers to venture out into their local public spaces and employ the methods we have used in these case studies. We anticipate adding content to this collection as opportunities allow.

One principle of critical importance in the design of public spaces is community input. With the goal of upholding this principle, as creators of this Field Guide, we would appreciate any comments, questions or feedback.

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