"We Are Here" elevating third places

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .


A year after getting a $1,000 Sprout Fund grant to start her We Are Here project, Lindsay Dill is spending her own money to keep the wheels greased so she can continue to map and connect so-called third places around the city.
Third places were originally defined as destinations that came in third, after home and work, on the essential list of time well spent. With the rise of arabica bean coffee in the ‘90s, coffee shops became coffee houses that became third places. The neighborhood tavern might be a third place, providing everybody knows your name. A bocce court, a park bench, a dog park — any place that’s a regular must-go where you have formed that loose alliance of community that keeps you free of obligation but gives you a sense of belonging. 
Lindsay is relying on people to identify their own compelling gathering spots so she can build a big enough network of sites for people to walk or bike to easily no matter where they live, or work. She is going to be vetting those nominees to ensure that they are not exclusive or based on highly specialized interests.
In the meantime, she is conducting a tour on Saturday to connect several third places between Market Square Downtown and the Strip District. It starts in Market Square at noon and ends up at Mullaney's Harp and Fiddle. You can learn more and sign up by using the initial link, above. 
Last Saturday, she led a tour on bikes, from the Carnegie Library in Oakland to Nied’s Hotel in Upper Lawrenceville. The Saturday before was all Lawrenceville, starting at Nied’s and walking to 720 Records & Cafe, then to Hambone's, then to a sidewalk bench.
I met her one afternoon at a cafe table at Espresso a Mano on Butler Street. This should be a third place and could be a third place if people talked to each other. When we were there, two guys were carrying on a spirited conversation that should be a hallmark of third places but instead reminded me of two violators of the silence that used to be enforced in libraries. Every other table was taken by exactly one person each, most with ear buds on, all at computers.
Definitely not a third place. There is no community in which conversation is the exception rather than the rule.
Lindsay’s partnering organization is her friend Adam Nelson’s City of PlayThey’re both aimed at getting people out into places in their city, to use their city in creative ways. Here’s a link to an article from last year about CoP’s “Spree Event.” 
Lindsay is an Erie native who stayed in Pittsburgh after graduating in photojournalism from Point Park University, where she took a geography class that studied third places. She was also inspired by the Project Coffeehouse enterprise that began with Cannon Coffee in Brookline and spread to Brew on Broadway in Beechview.
“It’s about the importance of place to connect people to their community,” she said. “I came to go to college but fell in love with the city and couldn’t leave. There’s so much community and character here.”
Lindsay is 23  and works in marketing and outreach for the Allegheny Land Trust.
Photo by Lindsay Dill: Market Square, Downtown


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