Revisiting the need for Third Places

Over at Vox, Allie Volpe has a piece talking about a perennial topic for me: “If you want to belong, find a third place“. Third spaces and their role in fostering a sense of connection and community I feel is pretty well understood at this point, yet despite the clear value for people (and the community), these sorts of spaces are constantly defunded and deprioritized. The way things are economically, there is a real sense that if you’re not maximizing your profitability (reduce lingering, high customer rotation), you’re not going to make it. (It’s not an entirely unreasonable assumption, unfortunately.) Further, even public spaces (or semi-public — plaza courtyards, malls, et cetera) are set up to actively discourage spending time in them, and then get defunded when people stop using them precisely because the space has become hostile to humans.

It’s all a bit maddening. But the article isn’t all doom and gloom, and points out a number of actions people are taking to identify, use, and encourage third places. I also liked that they pointed out that a good third place is heterogeneous:

As Oldenburg described them, third places are great equalizers, spots where regulars of different backgrounds and perspectives can mingle in a location that is comfortable, unpretentious, and low-cost.

Allie Volpe, “If you want to belong, find a third place

Unpretentious, low cost, and made up of people of different backgrounds and perspectives. Good goal for any space, in my opinion. We’ve been traveling to a lot of different regions and cities around the country, and thinking about it, that describes a lot of the places we’ve liked the most: places where folks live, aren’t caught up in some sort of weird regional exceptionalism, and generally seem more willing to talk to you than to make assumptions. (I realize our experience might not always be what others experience on that front – we’re white and are generally pretty “presentable”, so we might get more of a pass than others.)

Just some food for thought. As we figure out where we want to land after this walkabout wraps up, I think this is probably going to rattle around in the back of my brain, trying to consider where I feel like I could cultivate a third place that I’d enjoy.