Close Talkers

South Florida-based city planner Melissa Hege takes a look at how cities have adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Image #6: Food Halls + Eating

Once vibrant spaces with people bustling about, food halls are a kind of high end version of your childhood mall food court. Here you get top notch restaurant food and the privilege of serving yourself when your beeper buzzes and busing your table at the end of the meal. The beeper offers a bit of 90s nostalgia, pre-cell phones (yes there once was time before mobile phones).

Image #7: Playground in New York’s Hudson Park

This playground is full of life with splash pad, fountains, and lots of shaded seating. There is a hierarchy of space - inside the fence for children and outside the fence for onlookers. You can do all the close talking you want within the confines of the fence. Circle of trust.

Image #8: Times Square

The quintessential image of a bustling street filled with close talkers. What makes this space so engaging is the wide open spaces and the larger than life e-billboards against the backdrop of sky high buildings.

Image #9: Leisurely Strolls + Walk up Takeout

This is what I miss the most. Strolls in my favorite neighborhood and casual dining at the food truck take-out counter. No one worried about keeping their distance. All I thought of was what to order for lunch!

Image #10: Pop-Up Beach, Paris

Creative outdoor spaces like this “beach” on the Paris Seine River make me smile.

Lessons Learned

Our cities are so many things: resilient, adaptable, innovative, and full of wonderful people with terrific imaginations. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through this quarantine, it’s to adapt and reinvent. Our cities will do the same.

Guest editorial originally posted by Melissa Hege, AICP at

Melissa Hege, AICP, LEED AP, practices planning and urban design in one of the Country’s most envied and envious iconic cities—the Republic of Miami. For more than a decade, she has enjoyed the juxtaposition of the region’s beauty and dysfunction, and continues to learn from it daily. Educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Brandeis University, her portfolio includes award winning plans which translate design based solutions into practical applications.

In her current practice, Melissa Hege City Planning, she straddles the roles of planner and community advocate by exploring infrastructure investments which add exponential value to cities. These include waterfront parks, bicycle and pedestrian trails, and complete streets—streets which have comfortable and protected zones for bicycles, pedestrians, cars, and transit. She is currently developing a waterfront pop-up installation on Miami’s Biscayne Bay to demonstrate the potential value of a permanently improved and connected waterfront trail in downtown Miami. Other recent projects include an interactive web based tool to visually track all multi-agency infrastructure improvements in downtown Miami and a Complete Streets forum for local municipalities in partnership with Miami Dade County.

Melissa is a board member of the Miami Modern (MIMO) Biscayne Boulevard Association, a 501c3 dedicated to preserving its architectural history and expanding commercial opportunities for this US-1 corridor. She is Past Chair of the Miami Section of the Florida American Planning Association, was Co-chair for the State’s annual conference and served on Miami-Dade County’s Transportation Aesthetic Review Committee. She has been published in the Miami Herald, Florida Planning, Planetizen and Panorama (University of Pennsylvania) and taught as an adjunct professor at Florida Atlantic University. She developed a planning curriculum for middle school students at the Cushman School and is a regular speaker at the Florida American Planning Association’s annual conference.