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Happy City maps public spaces in St. John’s

The non-profit group Happy City is asking people to point out their favourite public spaces in St. John’s.
The non-profit group Happy City is asking people to point out their favourite public spaces in St. John’s. - Submitted

Group seeks to find out what makes a neighbourhood

What makes a neighbourhood? Is it the people? The shops? The colours of the homes?

Happy City, a non-profit group advocating municipal issues in St. John’s, has started a project to answer those questions. Their first stop is at the local coffee shop.

The group has launched an interactive community map where people can log their favorite public spaces. Happy City defines a public space as “any place, indoor or outdoor, you can sit, study, work, hang out, or generally loiter for $5 or less.”
Happy City vice-chair Michael Philpot says the Build Environment Committee was started last year, but it’s getting down to work on this project now. He says mapping public spaces is the first step toward a broader project.

“We’ve been looking at the idea of neighbourhoods. We’re kind of asking, ‘What makes a neighbourhood?’ We’ve got architects and urban geographers and engineers on the committee looking at this,” Philpot said. “One of the things that makes neighbourhoods is public spaces. We each know our own neighbourhood, but I don’t know where people in Airport Heights go when they want to hang out and get a coffee.”

Right now, people can visit the Happy City website and submit public spaces they frequent to help fill the map all over the city.

In the future, Philpot says, the committee wants to look at water infrastructure, and diverted and buried rivers throughout the city. The goal is to find out how people, geography and infrastructure come together to make a place to live.

While Philpot says the idea didn’t originate to help newcomers to the city find out more about St. John’s, it could very well be used as a tool for visitors.

“If it can be used that way, that’s great. We hadn’t considered it as a product. We want to build something interactive and show what kind of space it is, whether it’s accessible or not,” said Philot.

The committee set the $5 threshold for this first phase of the project to highlight financial accessibility.

“We wanted to open it up. When you think of a public place, you probably don’t think of any cost. But in some areas you don’t have those public buildings,” he said.

“I get the sense that most people have somewhere they like to go and would feel comfortable going to meet their friends or work and study.”

The ongoing database will be closed once the online survey at happycity.ca is completed. The information gathered will be used to help inform future urban planning projects.

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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