Where Have All the Third Spaces Gone?

“Third spaces,” public or quasi-public spaces where people spend time between home and work, are rapidly disappearing in Philadelphia, according to an article by Jake Blumgart in the Philadelphia Inquirer. As Blumgart explains,

Few coffee shops in Center City or South Philadelphia stay open past 5 p.m. The city’s all-night diners are dwindling away. The Barnes & Noble on Walnut Street is downsizing, causing an outcry over the loss of a public restroom and accommodating public spaces. Fast food restaurants have largely vanished from downtown.

Blumgart points out that areas around universities tend to cultivate semi-public spaces that provide a pleasant respite for people beyond the campus community. In Philadelphia, “University City is home to so many “third spaces” partly because Penn and Drexel see them as part of a larger strategy to improve relations with the surrounding neighborhoods.”

But as businesses slashed their hours during the pandemic to accommodate city restrictions, lower demand, and reduced staff, many people find themselves without anywhere outside of bars to spend time in the evenings.

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