NYC –> Shanghai, 27 days: Al, meet Fresco.

August 14th, 2003. 27 days.

The joys of dining “al fresco.”

2013-08-14 20.34.33 So it’s mid August in New York City. Normally it’s notoriously hot and humid this time of year. But lately, it’s been quite pleasant, especially at night. This evening was one of those especially lovely nights – to be perfectly honest, this Cuban-blooded Miamian was actually a bit chilly! As an urban designer though, it’s not the near perfect 68 degrees that makes for a beautiful night – it’s the fact that New Yorkers never take a night like this for granted (especially in the middle of August and particularly given the fact that our last heat wave has yet been erased from recent memory) They flock to eateries with outdoor dining like hipsters to the newest coffee shop with ornery baristas. While I was not indulging in the al fresco scene tonight, as a pedestrian bystander, I’d argue I got the better end of the deal. These diners with the clinks of their glasses and the hum of their lively conversations imbue the streets with palpable, infectious human energy. It’s amazing to think that something as simple (and cheap) as putting seating outside can be SUCH an effective placemaking technique (and economic development tool — not just because it’s been validated by the premiums attached to State of Place but also because it serves as great advertising for the eateries too!).  While I was in Iowa, folks asked me what I loved so much about New York and why I lived here – for me, the fact that life spills into the streets so regularly in this way is one of the most captivating and addictive things about urban living. It’s a great asset in New York. It was a gem in DC. And it’s something I’m looking forward to in Shanghai – even if (and perhaps even more so) the al fresco dining there comes in the form of not-quite-up-to-code plastic tables and chairs!

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