Isaac Kremer/ September 21, 2014/ conference, placemaking/ 0 comments

We were honored to be invited to present a session on “New Landscapes: Youth and Communities” at the Appalachian Regional Commission Fall Conference in Florence, Alabama in 2014. Case studies were provided of successful community development efforts in Middlesboro, Kentucky, and Decatur, Alabama. Presenters: Isaac Kremer with Crystal Brown, Director of Business Development, Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, Decatur, Alabama.

We arrived a day before the official opening session for the conference. Taking advantage of that extra time we traveled to Greensboro. Prior to our visit we had heard about how a storefront that sold pie generated millions of dollars in sales, the proceeds of which were reinvested in the town. Naturally we had to go and check this out – even though it was over a three hour drive one-way. So off we went.

In 2009 when PieLab sought to get established on a more permanent footing, their Kickstarter campaign stated the following:

PieLab– the vision of 14 young Project M designers, is transforming from pop-up experimental pie shop to permanent downtown eatery in Greensboro, Alabama. This expansion will elevate our level of engagement among the residents of Greensboro and the surrounding area of Hale County. The new space will be equipped with a full service kitchen, a community-focused design studio, as well as classroom space which will be used to train local youth through the Youth Build program.
Project M, founded by John Bielenberg in Belfast, Maine, is a group of designers, writers, and photographers brought together from around the world to challenge the conventions of design, and think wrong about how their talents can be used for the greater good.
Greensboro is most often recognized for its location in Hale County, one of the poorest in America, and for the architecture projects designed and built by the Rural Studio at Auburn University. At PieLab we hope to bring out the heart of Hale County by uncovering the ideas, stories, aspirations and talents of this underserved community. We also hope that through fostering conversation between neighbors at PieLab, we can provide a neutral and open forum for members of the community to expose and discuss some of the deep-rooted issues that still segregate this rural southern town.
Now that it has been cleaned and gutted, we’re ready to build out our new space on Main Street. Though we’ve been very resourceful, salvaging much of our materials from thrift stores and scrap piles, there are many items that we still need.
In an effort to acquire these items, we’re asking you to Invest in Pie by making a monetary donation in the amount of your choosing. All proceeds raised will be used to cover the costs of opening and operating the new shop and design studio. At PieLab, we believe that a united community is an empowered community, and when people feel empowered good things start to happen. Take part in a good thing.

 

A quick scan of the surroundings showed PieLab had given rise to a number of other initiatives throughout the downtown.

Hero Housing Resource Center.

 

Innovative architecture and social spaces.

 

Artisans at work.

 

Greensboro Hotel threshold.

 

Workers making bamboo bicycles.

 

Pam Dorr showing the cast iron beneath the aluminum siding.

 

 

Urban garden in Greensboro near Hero Housing.

 

Social furniture outdoors.

 

 Information kiosk in Greensboro.

Pie being made at PieLab in Greensboro.

 

Picking up a dozen pies at Pie Lab in Greensboro.

 

Governor addressing audience. Pie from Greensboro in the foreground that were persuaded conference staff to serve in the opening reception.

 

Sharing pie with some volunteers in the Social Media Station.

 

Another two days of sessions followed.

 

One final view of the hotel in Florence before taking off…

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About Isaac Kremer

Isaac Kremer is a transformative leader with a track record of success in downtown revitalization, placemaking, and supporting small businesses. He holds an M.A. in Historic Preservation Planning from Cornell University, and a B.A. in Economics and Management from Albion College.

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