What a Difference a Bench Makes

5th_St._Before.jpgGood magazine reports on how, with remarkable simplicity, this menacing, marginal streetscape in downtown LA was turned into a welcoming public space (click here for the after photo):

Rather than fence off the trash-strewn lot beside its building -- a stomping ground for drug-users and prostitutes -- one downtown Los Angeles community center added, instead, a few benches and flowers. Soon, neighbors began to hang out there, and the less desirable denizens vanished.

By beautifying the lot, the center transformed its use, and herein lies the vision of the Community Living Room project, run by the Los Angeles-based nonprofit group Verde Coalition: turn grim scraps of public land -- like bus stops, traffic medians, or dangerous street corners -- into welcoming public spaces.