Stevens uses as his case studies the work of Dan Biederman of the Bryant Park Corporation, and Ron Sher, at the Crossroads Mall in Bellevue, Washington, and their inventive efforts to turn their respective locales, one urban and one suburban, into thriving active places. Looking beyond physical design, Stevens tries to tease out lessons for those trying to revive moribund places in their own communities.
In Bellevue, in addition to building a calendar full of non-commercial events, Sher "has met the needs of nearby apartment residents by turning an under-used part of the parking lot into community gardens. Longer term, he plans to create a plaza that will be wrapped with mid-rise housing. It's the kind of multi-hour gathering place envisioned in town center plans, but rarely realized."
In Bryant Park, one of Biederman's unique insights is that he, "trusts the public, collectively. The bathrooms are one sign of that. Another is the chairs, which are not bolted down. You can pick them up and move them, but try take one away and people will stop you or call one of the maintenance people in evidence."