Caffe Apropos and urban Third Places

This week is the 10th anniversary of Caffe Apropos – a wonderful cafe in my neighborhood in Columbus.  You can read about Apropos at Columbus Underground – Caffe Apropos Celebrates 10 Years in Harrison West

Cafes, pubs and coffee houses like Apropos are crucial for livable and sustainable communities.  Urban theorists have developed the concept of the Third Place – a social setting apart from home and work where people can gather.  A Wikipedia article on the concept of Third Place summarizes the essential features (slightly modified by me):

  • Free or inexpensive
  • Food and drink, while not essential, are important
  • Highly accessible: proximate for many (walking distance)
  • Regulars – those who habitually congregate there
  • Welcoming and comfortable
  • Serendipity and spontaneity – encourages new interactions

An article in the Atlantic Cities from May 2012 describes this well – Why a Good Bar Is Essential to Sustainable Communities.   The article quotes Michael Hickey:

[A Third Place] is a place at least one step removed from the structures of work and home, more random, and yet familiar enough to breed a sense of identity and connection. It’s a place of both possibility and comfort, where the unexpected and the mundane transcend and mingle.

Third Places are essential for community completeness – the ability for residents to obtain goods, services, entertainment and social engagement in close proximity to where they live.

The Atlantic Cities article also mentions a great idea by Hickey – a lingering index that can measure the potential for hanging out – something that sounds mundane  but is at the heart of place-making.  I don’t think anyone has developed this index – yet.  (I’ve done some work with my colleague Steven Farber on measures of social interaction potential, but that’s not quite the same thing.)

Happy anniversary Caffe Apropos, and here’s to all the comfortable Third Places in our lives.

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