A CANAL RUNS THROUGH IT: In Oklahoma City, the Cox Convention Center is surrounded by walkable public space on all sides. One block east is the Bricktown Entertainment District, shown at left. The Myriad Botanical Gardens and Tropical Conservatory, across the street from the center, has recently undergone a $38-million facelift.And a new community boathouse on the nearby Oklahoma River offers canoe and kayak rentals. “Groups love coming for events on
the Oklahoma River,” said Sue Hollenbeck, assistant director of sports business development for the Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau, “because they knowtheir hotel, restaurants, and entertainment are all going to be right there next to the river—which is pretty unique.”
study at the University of Michigan showed that spending time in natural settings boosts cognitive skills. Participants who took walks in an arboretum showed a 20-percent improvement in tests that measured attention and focus, compared with those who took walks along city streets. All of these benefits are especially relevant when it comes to
face-to-face meetings. “It matters particularly for human inter- action,” Montgomery said, “because research shows that when we feel calm and less threatened, we are more likely to engage in positive ways with other people. Learning begins with that engagement between people.” Two critical things happen when wemove into an environment.“We are looking at the landscape around us,”Montgomery said, “andweare also looking at other people. And eye contact is essential for beginning engagement with other people.” Montgomery was part of a team that put that theory into
practice last fall as part of the BMW Guggenheim Lab, which was installed in a tent on public space onNewYork City’s Lower
Convention Centers in HighlyWalkable Places
East Side. The three-month installation, sponsored by the Guggenheim Museum, brought artists, academics, and com- munitymembers together to explore issues including urban qual- ity of life.Amongthe experiments conducted at the lab were ones in which researchers attempted to configure the space in order to build feelings of trust and connection among strangers. One exercise, for example, measured the physical reactions
of strangers asked towalk straight at one another until theywere almost touching noses—or until one participant turned away. When the participants moved too close together, Montgomery said, “their levels of arousal spiked; it is a very stressful experi- ence.” But, he said, it was also stressful for individuals to be too far away from each other.
‘Nudge People Closer Together’ Making connections is one of the primary reasons why people attend meetings, but some facilities and venues are better at sup- porting interaction than others.Toomany of them,Montgomery
2. Frontier Airlines Center, Milwaukee
Walk Score: 95 The FrontierAirlines Center
is in the heart of downtown
Milwaukee, which ranked number 13 onWalk Score’s list of “America’s MostWalkable Neighborhoods.” A pedestrian-friendly Riverwalk, built along the Milwaukee River, links downtown with the historic ThirdWard neighborhood, home to numerous art galleries and restaurants.
62 pcma convene February 2012
3. America’s Center Convention Complex, St. Louis
Walk Score: 95 A public/private partnership,
Downtown Now! has been
working for more than a decade to make downtown St. Louis a vibrant regional center. The results have included $5 billion invested, and the addition of 130 new shops and restaurants and 2,500 new hotel rooms. And more than 8,000 hotel rooms are located within walking distance of America’s Center.