Making Public Spaces Work


Honduras Joins the Global Movement to Make Public Space Work Better for People

You may have noticed more people out and about in public spaces recently in Honduras. Public spaces like parks, plazas, and streets play an important role for community building and quality of life in cities and towns. Honduras is now part of a global movement to make public spaces more vibrant, inclusive, and people-centered.

The Global Public Space Movement

Around the world, urban designers, planners, and community leaders are recognizing the value of high-quality public spaces. Public spaces foster social connections, promote health and well-being, and make cities more livable. However, in many places public spaces are underutilized or even avoidable for large segments of the population.

Making public spaces work better for people has become a major focus globally. The Project for Public Spaces is a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build strong communities. Their approach called Placemaking aims to create public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being.

UN-Habitat, the United Nations program working towards sustainable urban development, has made public space one of its key initiatives. The Global Public Space Toolkit launched by UN-Habitat provides principles and guidance for making quality public spaces that are inclusive, safe, resilient, green, and connected.

Many cities around the world have successfully created more vibrant public spaces that benefit local communities. For example, in Bogota, Colombia, new public spaces, parks, and pedestrian zones have helped transform the city. In Medellin, Colombia, public spaces in poor neighborhoods have helped build stronger communities and reduce crime.

The Need for Better Public Spaces in Honduras

In Honduras, public space has not received adequate priority and investment. Safety concerns, lack of maintenance, and few amenities discourage public use and enjoyment of public parks, plazas, and streets.

The primary public spaces in Honduras are often located around churches in town centers. These central plazas can be well-used on weekends but neglected the rest of the week. Accessibility is also an issue – people with disabilities, seniors, and families with young children can face difficulties navigating public spaces.

Public space design in Honduras also tends to favor vehicles over pedestrians. Narrow, broken, or obstructed sidewalks make walking unpleasant and unsafe. Heavy traffic, pollution, noise, and lack of shade or places to stop and rest further discourage walking.

Reclaiming and activating public spaces for people aligns with other urban issues Honduras faces. Better public spaces can aid community building, prevent violence, empower marginalized groups, support local economic development, promote sustainability, and more.

Tegucigalpa Leads by Example

The capital city of Tegucigalpa is starting to prioritize public spaces through planning and public-private partnerships. These efforts aim to create a more competitive, dynamic, inclusive and sustainable city.

In 2019, the new Plan Maestro Metropolitano (Metropolitan Master Plan) set a long-term vision for Tegucigalpa’s development through 2040. It identified key strategies like fostering quality public spaces to strengthen communities. Goals include adding new parks, pedestrian zones and bike lanes while also improving existing public spaces.

One major public space revitalization, the Bulevar Morazán, converted a main street cutting through downtown Tegucigalpa into a pedestrian zone. This involved extensive renovations completed in 2021 that created space for events, shopping, dining and recreation. Early signs show the Bulevar Morazán attracting more visitors and economic activity.

Local Efforts Gain Momentum Beyond Tegucigalpa

Other municipalities across Honduras are also starting to take action to improve public spaces:

  • In La Ceiba, the city government and community organizations partnered to upgrade downtown Parque Central Vicente Durán. Improvements like new lighting, landscaping and amenities aim to make this historic plaza more inviting for community events and recreation.
  • Comayagua’s historic center features one of Honduras’ most iconic central plazas. Preservation efforts restored historic buildings, along with street upgrades to renew the area as a destination for heritage tourism.
  • Choloma recently completed major improvements to one of its central parks. Parque Juan Ramón Molina now features fountains, light displays, green space and works by local artists – providing an attractive new gathering place.
  • Smaller towns are also getting involved. For example, Santa Rosa de Copán made upgrades to its central Parque San Martín, adding new plants, lighting, benches and sidewalk repairs.

While promising, most public space upgrades outside Tegucigalpa remain small and scattered so far. Lack of funding and municipal capacity limit public space improvements. But the increased attention shows momentum and openness for change.

Emerging Efforts to Support Public Space at the National Level

So far most public space initiatives in Honduras originate at the local level. But national bodies are starting to demonstrate interest as well:

  • In 2021, the Asociación de Municipios de Honduras (AMHON), the national association representing Honduras’ 298 municipalities, formed a new Public Spaces Working Group. AMHON’s support could help municipal efforts coordinate knowledge exchange and access additional resources.
  • The national tourism agency Instituto Hondureño de Turismo (IHT) now promotes cultural and heritage tourism focused on experiencing historic town centers and public spaces. Its Safe Travels safety seal for tourism businesses also incorporates accessibility criteria – which could encourage more public space improvements.
  • Invest-Honduras, the national investment and export promotion agency, sees public space upgrades as improving competitiveness. The agency now advises municipalities on securing public-private partnerships and financing mechanisms to fund public space projects.

These emerging efforts signal growing national interest to follow global trends on making public spaces better serve communities.

Engaging the Public as Key to Success

Global experience shows that public space upgrades fail without meaningful community engagement. Improvements need to respond to local context and priorities rather than following external trends.

Tegucigalpa’s early successes like the Bulevar Morazán redesign involved extensive public consultation before and during project development. Other Honduran cities would benefit from similar engagement to choose locations and design improvements people actually want and will use.

Ongoing community partnerships are also key for management and programming of public spaces after upgrades are complete. Friends of the Park groups, community events, public art, and activities bring people in more consistently. Otherwise public spaces risk declining from lack of use and care.

As Honduras joins the global movement for better quality public spaces, putting people at the center of planning, design and management decisions will determine success. Public spaces that respond to community priorities and foster local ownership best achieve social, economic and environmental goals over the long term.

The promising local efforts emerging in Honduras show momentum for change. With continued leadership plus national coordination and resources, vibrant and inclusive public spaces can spread to benefit communities large and small across the country.

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