Tuesday Morning Perspective - Street Art and Asian Groceries

I was fortunate to spend this past Thanksgiving in Florida - enjoying the sun, hotdogs at Doc's All American (best hot dog in America?), and of course a bit of urban analysis. Today's nugget comes from the seaside city of Delray Beach, located between Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm. Delray has expanded well beyond its pedestrian urban roots - it is difficult to build UP in Florida due to hurricaines. The downtown business district, however, is clearly thriving with what appear to be three primary business types: restaurants (drawing both regulars and tourists), arts (galleries), and tourist traps (t-shirts/tchatchkes). Between those are scattered various other service and retail businesses like real estate agencies, opthamologists, and civic. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, several blocks of side streets off the main drag were closed off to traffic for a massive art fair. A regular farmers market set up shop in the park outside our hotel as well.

Delray Beach Streetscape: Note the drive lanes separated from pedestrians by a row of parked cars, a tree row, and canopies at most stores work together to create a comfortable pedestrian environmentDelray Beach Streetscape: Note the drive lanes separated from pedestrians by a row of parked cars, a tree row, and canopies at most stores work together to create a comfortable pedestrian environment

But what I really want to write about today is the little things. Like this:

Whimsical Bike Rack: Whimsical bike rack serves double duty as a play structure when not being used for its "intended" purpose.Whimsical Bike Rack: Whimsical bike rack serves double duty as a play structure when not being used for its "intended" purpose.

Energetic children will make a play structure out of anything, of course, but the presence of items like this make for a more engaging environment... This happened to take place on a Friday morning before the crowds were up and out.

The city has certainly put effort into maintaining a vibrant and safe pedestrian culture in downtown Delray Beach, but they have also clearly put effort into making sure it is a FUN pedestrian culture as well. Throughout the downtown are scattered tink pocket parks, courtyards, public art, and amenities: trees to climb, playground equipment, whimsical bike racks, excellent signage, streetside dining, well-manicured plantings, interesting pavement, murals, lights. What is really neat about it all is that except for a substantial "public square" area, there is not a feeling of being "planned". Much of this investment in pedestrian amenity is private and individual - not a massive public investment, but the long-term development and promotion of a pedestrian culture.

Carousel: Carousel in downtown Delray Beach, FL.Carousel: Carousel in downtown Delray Beach, FL.

Asian Groceries

And on a completely different note, I finally got around to shopping at Saigon Market (MLK and Douglas) this past weekend. There are certain things it only makes sense to purchase at an Asian market. Among them: rice, coconut milk, nori, rice sticks, basil, fish sauce, curry paste, limes, green onions, bok choi... My full grocery bag cost $12.71. For kicks, I priced out the same items at HyVee when I had to stop there later in the day and ended up at about $18. Of them, the coconut milk was particularly noteworthy at more than twice the price at HyVee. Plus, the benefits of supporting local small business.

Saigon MarketSaigon Market

There is another Asian market I particularly like - located downtown on Grand, the New Oriental Food Store is situated just down the street from the State Historical Society building, where I find myself relatively often. Huge sacks of rice stand sentry in its storefront window (the big blank facade above is concerning from an urban planning perspective, and I'm curious what sort of business goes on up above the store). I try to stop in for some staples as I am driving by.

Both of these stores are worth a short trip as you are grocery shopping.

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