In this week’s Hook, David McNair takes a look at the four fountains on the Downtown Mall (Miller’s, Central Place, Sal’s, Nook) and, look at Downtown Mall designer Lawrence Halprin’s original vision, finds them wanting. Halprin’s vision was for them to be interactive. There’s a reason why the Central Place fountain is wide, shallow, and has steps leading down into it: people are supposed to be able to walk into it. Instead, it’s surrounded by chain. The three smaller fountains are inaccessible to the public during the warm portion of the year, because the space around them is leased to restaurants for cafés. Everybody McNair talks to agrees that it’s time to make the fountains accessible again and restore Halprin’s plan.
13 thoughts on “Our Mall Fountains Have Strayed”
Isn’t it funny that people in the article referenced fountains as far away was West Palm and Aspen when two outdoor malls right in Richmond have interactive fountains?
I think it’s so sweet to watch children playing with the water pumps at Short Pump and running around the jets at Stony Point Fashion Center. It’d been nice to have our fountains back the way they were meant to be.
Couldn’t agree more. It has always bothered me that Sal’s, Miller’s, and the Nook’s cafes had exclusive “use” of the fountains most of the year – including the months where people are most likely to want to enjoy them. Does anybody know if they had to pay extra in cafe rent for that right?
Free the Fountains!
Hmm…I remember when the mall first opened and the interactive model thing was going. I was a kid, and we certainly did play in the fountain. However, I believe it was as a result of sanitation and liability issues that this fell by the wayside. I think there was even a lawsuit against the city over the central place fountain – kids used to climb in the cauldron.
I do think it stinks that the alternate fountains are captives of ‘private’ commercial space, during the time of year you’d want to play with the water.
If you’ve ever walked up and down the Mall with small kids, you’ve noticed that they are drawn to the fountains. So they see the fountain that Miller’s “owns” and go charging off to look at it or play in it, and they’re clambering under the outdoor-dining-area chains and past tables full of restaurant patrons, and you’re chasing after them because it’s as if your kids have just barrelled into a restaurant…if the idea of the fountains was that they were for the public to enjoy, barricading them behind chains and chairs surely has subverted that intention.
Ninety-nine percent of the people who might play with the water would likely neither have nor create a problem with it.
As for the other 1%, the list of mischief is long: dirt, urine, feces, blood, bleach, food, grass, coloring, dogs, beer, soaps (aren’t those mountains of bubbles pretty!), slipping on the rocks, getting sick from drinking the water, pushing other rowdies in, suing the city for injuries from the above…
Be careful for what you wish!
Kids used to put soap in the fountains, drunks used to pee in them, and dirty dogs swam in them. End of story. We must remember our demographics here people..even though we have inflated aspirations. An interactive fountain is just asking for trouble…unless it’s in Copenhagen or somewhere else truly civilized.
None of those problems have been solved or could be solved with a length of knee-height chain.
The city’s “Attractive Nuisance” civil liability problem is solved. The chains are a warning that you are not supposed to be playing there, or drinking the water. If you climb over the chains, then you cannot claim you had no idea you weren’t supposed to be in there. Sure, all the same harm can occur, but now you have to take personal responsiblity for it – not blame the city.
‘right there’ & Jeeperman are right about the problem – except that the European fountains have the same issues too.
The attractive nuisance is entirely about children, though. It has nothing to do with adults.
There are five elements to the attractive nuisance doctrine, and it’s a bit of the fifth that’s most relevant here: the property owner must exercise reasonable care to eliminate the danger or to protect the children. A “keep out of fountain, it’s dangerous” sign doesn’t qualify, because young children can’t read. And a knee-high chain, I suspect, would also not qualify, because I can’t see that there’s anything about that chain that tells a four-year-old “keep out.” (That’s why insurers often require full fencing around a swimming pool, such that it is impenetrable to children. If a kid gets into the neighbor’s pool and drowns, that’s a lost lawsuit right there.)
Presumably, the consideration of danger must have been a part of the decision to make that Central Place fountain so shallow. While, yes, it’s possible to drown in a bowl of soup, the risk of drowning in something as shallow a that fountain are so minimal as to presumably be irrelevant.
I knew that Real Estate Law course would come in handy. :)
I don’t know the first thing about the legalities surrounding pretty fountains, but do they account at all for personal responsibility? Somewhere along the line it seems like there needs to be a common sense factor. As in, if someone drinks the water and gets sick, that’s their own fault (or their parents’, for letting them) for drinking water from a public fountain that clearly wasn’t intended to provide drinking water.
Was putting soap in the fountain really such a huge problem that it merited closing off the fountain for public access?
Not only do the chains take away the fun of playing in the fountain on a hot day, they’re also ugly.
I’m not a lawyer either, and I don’t know what the standard is in case law, but I expect the city’s counsel did review this. I think the normal ins. co. standard of “chain link fence” probably errs on the side of over-doing it. Any lawyers care to comment?
I’d be particularly curious to hear an attorney’s $0.02 because, given lawsuits and attractive nuisance standards, it’s amazing that anything like a skate park or a water fountain ever gets built.
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