“Third Places” In Montana, And Why They Matter
There's no denying that Montana is growing as Americans move away from the east and west coasts of the country seeking cheaper housing and employment opportunities. It's put a strain on infrastructure and housing as our biggest cities seem to be bursting at the seams, worsened by the impact of COVID-19.
However there is light at the end of the tunnel if you choose to look for it. How cities choose to invest in their communities has a direct impact on strengthening them. We'll look at "third places" and why they matter at a time more than ever as Montana looks to add to its economic value.
Playgrounds like this one bring kids and adults together, a classic example of a third place.
What Is A "Third Place?"
If where you live is your first place and where you work is your second, a third place is necessary to build relationships and strengthen ties with your neighbors. The term "third place" was coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg from the University of West Florida in his book The Great Good Place (1989). For decades, Oldenburg has demonstrated that communities lose economic viability as they lose the physical spaces where people can come together to form bonds.
Missoula Senior Center is one example of a third place, giving seniors a place where they can participate in activities together.
Classic examples of third places include:
- libraries or bookstores
- public parks
- community centers
- art museums
A third place's purpose is to bring a community together without too much pressure to buy anything, if at all. Bars, local diners, and coffee shops serve this purpose as well but emphasize profits more than a traditional third place.
Public parks are a great example of a third place, giving community residents somewhere to relax and be together.
Montana's cities aren't anywhere near as densely packed as those on the West and East coasts, but the happiness of our citizens is important no matter how many people are living in Montana. Investing in third places feeds the soul, and promotes job growth so we can feed our tummies in turn.
What About Social Media? Isn't That A Third Place?
As we've learned from COVID, human beings aren't meant to isolate from each other for too long, even while social media platforms are making significant strides in keeping us hooked on their morphine drips. This report from 2022 highlights the upticks in loneliness, anxiety and poor physiological well-being from too much social media consumption and not enough physical connection.
Even this skate park in Missoula is a third place. The city built the park in 2006.
As people flock to Montana, it's important that we work, live, and play together no matter how fast or far we grow as parts of a whole.
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