Learning from St. Augustine

I found that this historic Floridian city has a lot of lessons packed into a tiny footprint. While it’s tempting to write off St. Augustine as a tourist trap or an anomaly, this city demonstrates the durable attractiveness of human-scaled places.

This was my fourth trip to the city and the third in as many years. Each time I visit I find something new to appreciate. The historic core of St. George Street is without a doubt the main attraction. This pedestrian mall stretches about 1,500 feet and terminates into the Plaza de la ConstituciĆ³n. This is a nearly perfect distance for social strolling – or as its known in Spanish: un paseo.

Unlike other pedestrian malls, this corridor lacks many of the amenities commonly associated with this form of urban development. There is relatively little outdoor seating; street trees are sparse; almost all of the surfaces are hard. Instead, St. George Street sustains a consistent enclosure and a density of commercial activity. These features transform the street from a thoroughfare to a destination. The consistent facades establish the feeling of being in an “outdoor room.” Comparatively narrow lot sizes along the street facilitate a variety of businesses.

But if this is all you’ve seen of St. Augustine, you’re missing out.

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