“Livable Communities 101 Breakout Session,” AARP College 2018, Somerset, NJ (2018, April 21)
What does it mean to make a community more livable for people of all ages? Join us to learn real world examples of how towns across the state are working to do just that, how AARP is helping support this work, and simple projects you and other community members can engage in to make your town a great place to live at any age. Session participants will engage in a hands on livable communities project demonstration as part of the course. Led By: Isaac Kremer, Executive Director of the Metuchen Downtown Alliance; and Christine Newman, Manager of Outreach and Volunteer Engagement AARP New Jersey
— Bridget Faith (@BridgetQuinn25) April 21, 2018
Guide to Activities
Pallet Adirondack Chair
These chairs are made from shipping pallets. They help to divert waste from landfills and build community. Placing chairs like this on streets and sidewalks is referred to as “chair bombing.” Materials Needed: • Clean shipping pallet (with HT stamp for “heat treated”) • 1 ¼ inch screws • 3 inch screws• 1/8 inch drill bit • sand paper • paint.
Seating can come in many forms. Whether it be chairs made from pallets, benches, or steps fabricated for people to sit on –there are many ways to encourage people to sit, stay a while, and enjoy themselves. William H. Whyte probably said it best: “People tend to sit most where there are places to sit.” Materials Needed: Chairs.
— Mathilde Roux (@mathilde13400) April 21, 2018
Use pallet slats to build a planter box inside of a shipping pallet. Line planting area with landscape fabric. Fill with dirt and plants. Materials Needed: • Clean shipping pallet • Landscape fabric • Screws • Plants and dirt.
Guerilla Way-finding Signs
Expensive way-finding sign systems are not the only way to help get folks around. Guerilla way-finding signs show the time it takes to walk or bike from the location of the sign to a destination somewhere else in town. The website www.walkyourcity.org allows you to make customized signs. Materials needed: • Cardboard • Zip ties.
We sought to demonstrate how to involve the public in decision making. A quick 3 question survey was developed that gave participants an opportunity to select colors and designs of chairs and planters. This survey was developed from a form designed by the Bloomfield Development Corp. in Pittsburgh, PA.
The questions were as follows:
1. Choose the overall type of streetscape elements you prefer.
2. Consider additional options that were not displayed for this demonstration.
3. If you could could put one chair anywhere in New Jersey, where would it be.
Of the 13 responses, nine preferred the metal slat chair with arms and only 1 selected the metal slat chair without arms. Three selected the Adirondack chair. The preference in color was concentrated in blue, yellow, and green.
In Step 2, an open response section was given to consider additional options that were not displayed for this demonstration. One person mentioned having a purple chair, another mentioned pink and purple chairs, and a last person suggested a cushion for the chairs.
The last question dealt with where we might put chairs anywhere in New Jersey. All of the recommendations follow:
- Brighton Park, Atlantic City
- Where seniors frequent, but there is no seating.
- At the ocean’s edge
- Capitol steps
- Medford, NJ
- River Vale, Sandy Hook
- In Trenton next to the Governor so he listens to AARP
- Park in North Jersey
- By Governor’s Office to Remind him of his constituents he works for
- Spring Lake
- Bus stop without seating
One final take away from the survey was the question asking if people would like updates on Livable Communities, or to have materials on the session sent to them. Of the responses 9 of 13 said yes to both questions. Two asked just for information on Livable Communities. And the remaining two did not respond to either question.
While the workshop gave us a chance to explore these concepts of people bringing about rapid community change, we just began to tap into the potential of this rich topic. Suggestions for additional resources were provided to help participants follow-up. They were also invited to share any examples of success with the session facilitators and AARP New Jersey.
Melody Warnick in her book This Is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are, provides hundreds of ideas on how to increase place attachment and happiness. Find out more about Melody and her work at: http://melodywarnick.com.
Isaac Kremer lives and works in Central New Jersey. He’s happy to talk with anyone undertaking low-cost rapid community improvements and share from his extensive experience with placemaking. See more about Isaac and his work at http://isaackremer.com.
AARP Livable Communities has extensive resources online. Start here for more information: https://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/. Also contact the AARP New Jersey state office for more information about how to get started with livability initiatives in your community.
We were thrilled to be invited to present at the first-ever AARP College New Jersey. During our afternoon session over 30 volunteers participated in projects to demonstrate their ability to bring about immediate change.