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University of Iowa News Release

March 7, 2006

Groups Seek Nominations For 'Best Third Place' In Iowa City

In "The Great Good Place," Ray Oldenburg writes about "third places" that are neither home nor work (or school), but places of vivid community. Places where people can nurture the social bonds that connect them to their friends and fellow citizens. Informal gathering places that spark a certain social frisson: cafes, bookstores, bars, hair salons, parks, pedestrian malls and riverbanks, among others.

The periodical Little Village, in partnership with the University of Iowa Project on Place Studies (IPOPS), WSUI-AM public radio, Standing By Words Center and the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance, is now seeking nominations to find out where Iowa City's "Best Third Place" exists. The deadline is April 1.

"The Iowa City area is a spectacular place, and many individual wonderful places add up to make it so," said Thomas Dean, special assistant to the UI president, IPOPS founder and adjunct assistant professor of literature, science and the arts. "This initiative is a celebration of all those places as much as it is a recognition of 'the best.' I look forward to exploring the many 'third places' that create and refresh our life together."

Dean said the public gathering place has been central to community since the time of the ancient Greeks. Athens' "agora" was the city's public center for political, commercial, administrative and social activity, as well as its religious and cultural center and the seat of justice. Throughout history, small and large public venues have also served as the nerve centers of culture: the Japanese tea house, the Paris café, the American small town courthouse square, the Irish pub, New York's Central Park.

"I believe that people naturally crave the kinds of community and social interaction that third places engender," Dean said. "Richard Florida's ideas about the 'creative economy,' as expressed in his 'The Rise of the Creative Class' and 'The Flight of the Creative Class,' have at their core the idea that people flock to communities that not only offer desirable entertainment, but also the infrastructure, both public and private, that leads to the bonds of community as well as fun."

To nominate a public or private place or establishment, send a letter (or letters) describing in detail why the nominated place is the city's "Third Best Place." Self-nominations by proprietors of a place are acceptable. Send nominations to "Best Third Place Contest," c/o Little Village, P.O. Box 736, Iowa City, IA  52244. No materials will be returned.

A committee of representatives from the sponsoring organizations will select the winner, who will be featured in a future edition of Little Village's "UR Here" column, will be a guest on a WSUI's "Talk of Iowa" program focusing on the third place and the creative economy and receive a letter of congratulations from Oldenburg, as well as an autographed copy of his book.

For more information, email Dean at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,