Sociologist Ray Oldenburg has coined the term “third place” for the places where community members informally hang out to socialize, discuss business deals, and talk about their lives and their community. The first place is home, the second is work. Third places are not private clubs, but locations where anyone in the community can drop by, have a cup of coffee or a beer, say hello to friends and join in on a conversation.
Third Places are disappearing everywhere as small, local businesses have a harder and harder time competing with chains (such as Starbuck’s, which considers itself a third place), and as local taverns and bookstores disappear from the scene.
A community with no third places is no community. If you don’t have enough of them, start one. Start one downtown, or even in your neighborhood. In fact, every neighborhood or district in town should have at least one. Check out Third Place Commons in the Seattle area, which was actually created as a third place, rather than being one that evolved over the years. Here’s some information on its history.
Celebrating the Third Place
Inspiring Stories About the “Great Good Places” at the Heart of Our Communities. Edited by Oldenburg. [book]
Great Good Place, The
Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community. Oldenburg’s original book. [book]