Recent construction has done a good job of opening up Federal Street downtown, but there seems to be a glut of concrete spaces and anemic grey benches. Examples can he seen here, here, and here.
When the springtime hits in Europe, some cities take their wide-open public places traditionally covered in brick and place very large planters across the ground. They then arrange some flowers to make a pattern. Essentially it takes a normally barren area and adds life and color to the central part of some cities. Here is an example from a postcard:
Perhaps partially covering over the cement in the summer months with flowers, while leaving space for pedestrians is one way to ameliorate the attractiveness of our downtown's streetscape.
(special thanks to Matt at downtownyoungstown.com where I found these pictures)
UPDATE (August 2006): There is new blog entry about the flowers in Metz in summer 2006 and how they were assembled. Click here to see more details.