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Private Spaces in the Public Realm

Transportation issues are not the only challenges that residents of the GTA are faced with. With the closure of several Chapters locations across the city, there is a noticeable shortage of public spaces where individuals can be engaged in their own private tasks. People are innately social beings. Many don’t particularly enjoy sitting alone in an empty apartment working on their own. People need places other than private homes and offices to create, to think, to dream, and to connect with others for information and inspiration.

Thankfully two groups still exist that serve this need – Starbucks and public libraries. Starbucks has long known that coffee is just one of the many reasons people frequent their shops. There is most often an energy within each of their locations given the abundance of people that pass through their doors. A quick glance around and you will see that customers are engaged in different activities, be it reading, writing, internet surfing, chatting with friends, or just people-watching.

Other than Starbucks and a number of small coffee shops, the only other free zone would be public libraries. They are one of the rare public space typologies that is truly open to all, at least it is wonderfully so in Toronto. The perfect combination would be a public library that had all the features of a Starbucks – coffee readily available and dedicated areas where you could actually converse with people – noisy spaces, and not just quiet spaces. Maybe Starbucks could also have a small section of their coffee shops devoted to checking out popular library books that could be returned to a local branch. This might be a bit of a stretch but we are now truly living in a global environment and a global economy. Thinking should be encouraged; creativity should be encouraged; competition should most definitely be encouraged. We need places for people to meet and contemplate life. Where would J.K. Rowling be as a struggling single mother, without the coffee shop where she apparently penned the first Harry Potter book?

There remains further opportunities in this city to combine a book store with a coffee shop. Maybe these book stores would cater only to book and coffee lovers and it would be necessary to check your electronic devices before entering. Ridiculous you say – I hope someone gives it a try!

- Bruce

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