On Saturdays October 9th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th, the SoHo Broadway Initiative deployed “Little Prince Plaza.” On these four consecutive Saturdays in October, Prince Street between Broadway and Mercer Street was closed to vehicular traffic and instead opened to people. This temporary demonstration plaza was populated with seating, tables, umbrellas, turf circles, and space for pedestrians to comfortably stroll through or spend time in.
We affectionately referred to this temporary public open space installation as “Little Prince Plaza,” in recognition of its diminutive scale yet regal nature (and of course as a nod to the beloved novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). This pop-up passive public space provides a site of respite during the busiest day of the week on the sidewalks and streets of SoHo. In addition to simply providing more space for people, our goal was to observe, document, and measure how use the space is used, learn what works well and what can be improved, and collect feedback from those visiting the Plaza as an initial Tactical Project in concert with the recently released SoHo Broadway Public Realm Framework + Vision Plan.
Little Prince Plaza was made possible through the New York City Department of Transportation’s Open Streets program, and in collaboration with Street Plans.
We were pleased to see so many people enjoying the space or simply passing though during these October Saturdays, and sharing overwhelmingly positive feedback. Between 2 and 5 p.m. on October 9, the plaza saw a whopping 8,916 pedestrians pass through, as well as 398 cyclists. Over 300 visitors completed a survey over the four weeks of Little Prince Plaza; over 24% of whom were from SoHo, 26% from elsewhere in Manhattan, and 20% from the remainder of New York City. Over 92% of respondents arrived by walking, bike, or transit, and 80% strongly agreed and another 9.5% agreed that Little Prince Plaza is a welcome addition to the SoHo Broadway area. Nearly 87% of survey respondents said they would like to see streetscape changes like Little Prince Plaza become more frequent or even permanent.
When asked about what sorts of amenities or programming people would like to see if Little Prince Plaza were to occur more frequently or become permanent, more seating was overwhelmingly requested; greenery, art, music, food, beverages, kids’ activities, restrooms, games, lighting, phone charging stations, and market opportunities for small independent artisans/businesses were also mentioned by respondents multiple times. Suggestions about better separating bikes and pedestrians, improved wayfinding, different aesthetic preferences, as well as concerns about potential traffic impacts were also raised. This feedback is appreciated and we will use it in planning for future public realm interventions.
While the survey requested suggestions, some Plaza visitors volunteered responses that made us smile:
“I just had lunch in Chinatown and then walked over here and found myself tired after being on my feet all day. I was actually headed to the Apple store because they have an auditorium and I’m just looking for a place to sit, so this is awesome!”
“We just wanted to sit somewhere with our drinks. We lucked out and got this table but additional seating would definitely be great.”
“It was nice to find a spot to sit as we’ve been walking all day.”
“Love the colors, and really happy to have a space to just sit and relax!”
“These yellow and orange things [seats] are cool!”
“I like the blue dots!”
Finally, a special thanks to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer for stopping by to show her support!