Tactical Urbanism: 10 Ways to Restore Your Downtown for $500 or Less

Isaac Kremer/ March 30, 2015/ placemaking, tactical urbanism/ 0 comments

“Tactical Urbanism Workshop,” National Main Streets Conference, Atlanta, Georgia (2015, March)

Have no money and want to fix your downtown? No problem. We’ll show you ten ways you get started restoring your downtown for $500 or less. Tactical urbanism and temporary interventions will be explored in depth. Participants will be given hands-on opportunities to build a pallet chair, create a pop-up shop, and make a parklet. After the workshop results will be put on display in a pop-up park at the conference venue that participants help to create. By taking these practical ideas and translating them in to a physical reality, this will show Main Street programs everywhere how they can build a #BetterMainStreet. Presenters: Isaac Kremer, with Ryan Gravel, Pekins and Will; Kateryna Goncharova, Ukranian State Institute for Preservation of Historic and Architectural Sites.

Better Main Street Contest!
Following the workshop we’ll ask you to go out and perform one tactical intervention. Then take a picture or video and share the result on social media using the hashtag #BetterMainStreet. Based on the responses received one will be selected as the Better Main Street Contest Winner and given a prize they can display proudly touting their accomplishment, before passing it on to the next community to win. Please fill out this form to stay connected: http://goo.gl/forms/NQVAurEI89.

Tactical Urbanism Toolkit
The pre-build process involves developing concepts for your tactical interventions. At this time you will gather your tools and materials. We’ve included a list of tools you may need. Note: Before going out to buy stuff, it’s better to BORROW or SHARE than to buy. That helps to engage your community and manage your costs.

Tools Needed

  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves
  • Power drills
  • Circular saw
  • Drop cloths
  • Extension cords, long and short
  • Five gallon buckets with handles
  • Variety of drill bits (especially 3/16” for pilot holes)
  • Crowbar
  • Hammer
  • Duct tape
  • Exacto knife
  • First aid kit

A Note About Social Media
As much as tactical urbanism is about making physical changes, it is a social process as well. Social media is great for generating ideas and mobilizing people and resources. Consider setting up a special account for your tactical urbanism work. For an example see @BetterBlockBoro or Facebook.com/BetterBlockBoro.

Intervention #1: Pallet chairs $15
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.”
– We’ll guide people step-by-step through the process of creating pallet chairs

Materials Needed
 Pallets (x2)
 Screws
 Spray paint

Also see: http://mboroky.blogspot.com/2013/09/30-ideas-in-30-days-pallet-chairs-bring.html


Intervention #2: Pallet garden $30

Urban agriculture is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food. This may involve animal husbandry, aquaculture, agroforestry, urban beekeeping, and horticulture. A parking space, yards, roof-tops, sidewalks, and balconies may be used for agricultural purposes.

– Use pallet slats to build a planter box inside pallet
– Line planting area with landscaping fabric
– Fill with dirt and plants

Materials Needed
 Clean shipping pallet
 Landscape fabric
 Screws
 Plants and dirt


Intervention #3: Movie screening < $100

Movies have long served a function to bring people together. Showing films that have a tie-in and connection with the community or region is an excellent way to celebrate the place. Whether inside or outside, or just a handful of people or several hundred, the power of film draws people together.

– Hang a sheet and project movie

Materials Needed
 King or queen sized sheet OR white tarp
 Projector
 Speakers
 Note: Review licensing requirements to make sure your work complies with all relevant copyright laws. Libraries often have special licensing rates and might be a good partner.


Intervention #4: Parklet $250-$500+

Parking spaces are reclaimed as public spaces without large capital expenditures. New public space is created through the addition of movable tables and chairs, painting the asphalt, and installation of inexpensive planters and stone blocks. Most sit level with the sidewalk. The design is flexible enough to be adapted during the trial period. Parklets are considered part of the public realm and not associated with a business. They may be freely used by the public at large.

– Set shipping pallets down on the pavement and make level with the sidewalk
– Build some kind of protective railing
– Places chairs and tables to create a pleasant outdoor seating area

Materials Needed
 Shipping pallets
 Screws
 Plantings (optional)
 Paint or sealant (optional)

Also see: http://mboroky.blogspot.com/2013/10/30-ideas-in-30-days-9-sidewalk-stencils.html


Intervention #5: Guerrilla Way-finding $15
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.

– Walk [Your City] is a web-based platform that allows you to easily design, fabricate, and print a way-finding system
Go to https://walkyourcity.org/ and get started

Materials Needed
 Your fingers! Walk [Your City] provides the rest

Also see: http://mboroky.blogspot.com/2013/10/30-ideas-in-30-days-12-walk-your-city.html


Intervention #6: Pop-up cafe $100
Something as simple as a cart with hot and cold beverages can activate a public space. Providing public seating in the parking lane can help promote local businesses. These are particularly needed in areas where outdoor public seating is limited. These serve as placeholders until sidewalks can be permanently extended.

– Materials and supplies will be put out to set up a pop-up cafe
– Following the workshop a cafe will be on display in the Expo Hall

Materials Needed
 Coffee maker and supplies
 Water and sodas
 Ready-to-serve foods
 Rolling cart (optional)

Also see: http://mboroky.blogspot.com/2013/10/30-ideas-in-30-days-25-pop-up-cafe.html

Intervention #7: Pop-up shop $100-$500

Vacant buildings are transformed into assets through pop-up shops. These give budding entrepreneurs an opportunity to get their start. After cleaning the space and refreshing the look inside and out, the pop-up shop is born. Oftentimes pop-ups have a life that extends well after the initial trial period is over.

– Merchandise will be provided to set up a pop-up shop
– Participants will then be guided through the process of running the shop

Materials Needed
 Merchandise
 Tables
 Chairs
 Cash box
 Square reader (very helpful!)

Also see: http://mboroky.blogspot.com/2013/10/30-ideas-in-30-days-19-pop-up-shops.html


Intervention #8: Informal bike parking $15
Something as simple as a metal bar attached to a wall can serve as informal parking for bikes. Another variation is setting a shipping pallet on end and bracing it so bikes may tie up. This helps to encourage cycling at little to no cost.

– We will assemble and install a temporary bike parking unit.

Materials Needed
 Metal pipe
 Angle brackets for metal pipe
 Masonry screws
 Bike stencil and paint (optional)

Also see: http://mboroky.blogspot.com/2013/10/30-ideas-in-30-days-21-bike-valet.html


Intervention #9: Sharrows $5
Shared-lane marking or “sharrows” show traffic lanes that bicyclists and vehicles are expected to share. These may be installed temporarily with a stencil and spray paint, or with more durable and permanent materials. These create a more welcoming environment for cyclists.

– A template of the sharrow design will be available to trace out and make your own template

Materials Needed
 Cardboard, mylar, or light plywood
 Spray paint

Also see: http://mboroky.blogspot.com/2013/09/30-ideas-in-30-days-28-sharrows.html


Intervention #10: Stencils $5
These fairly inexpensive and easy to produce stencils help to bring a positive message wherever folks are passing through town. Greater in the Crater refers to the fact that Middlesborough is the only city in the U.S. built entirely within a meteorite crater. “It’s Good to be Here” is based on a similar project by artist Candy Chang in New Orleans.

– Examples will be brought from Middlesboro
– Participants will outline these to take home with them

Materials Needed
 Cardboard or mylar
 Spray paint

Also see: http://mboroky.blogspot.com/2013/10/30-ideas-in-30-days-9-sidewalk-stencils.html


Additional Resources

About the Presenters
Isaac D. Kremer is Executive Director of Discover Downtown Middlesboro and manages a 40 block downtown in Appalachian Kentucky. He has successfully attracted over $1.75 million of funding and leveraged over $30 million of private investment. Kremer is a leading proponent of utilizing tactical urbanism to achieve downtown revitalization, entrepreneurship, and historic preservation goals. For many years he has been an active and vocal advocate nationally for historic preservation and Main Street. Middlesboro was named “One to Watch” by the National Main Street Center in 2014.

Kateryna Goncharova is a senior scientific researcher and Head of the Scientific Research Section in the Ukrainian State Institute for Preservation of Historic and Architectural Sites. She is a Member of ICOMOS (Ukraine). She has been involved with the preservation of architectural heritage and historical sites for the past ten years, including research, management, and scientific support in the development of projects for the preservation of several UNESCO World Heritage sites. Dr. Goncharova holds a Ph.D. in history with a focus on historic preservation and heritage science. Her doctoral dissertation was devoted to an analysis of the formation of preservation methodology in Ukraine in the second half of the twentieth century to the early twenty-first century. As a Fulbright Scholar (2014-2015) Dr. Goncharova is conducting research concerning the U.S. experience in historic preservation based on public-private partnership, community engagement and neighborhood revitalization in order to implement it in Ukraine.

Ryan Gravel with Perkins + Will brings the knowledge of building dimension and design to site planning, concept development, and public policy. His master’s thesis in 1999 was the original vision for the Atlanta Beltline, a 22-mile transit greenway that transforms a loop of old railroads with transit, parks, and trails to generate economic growth and protect quality-of-life in 45 neighborhoods throughout the central city. Now in the early stages of implementation, the project’s health and economic benefits have already become obvious, with record-breaking use of its first 2-mile phase of trail and over $1 billion of new, compact, mixed-use redevelopment along the same corridor since 2005. At Perkins+Will, Ryan has helped lead early design work on the Atlanta Beltline itself, taking his long-term commitment to sustainable city building full circle: from vision, to advocacy, to planning, design, and implementation. He speaks internationally and has received numerous awards for his work on the project. Ryan is also finishing a book that investigates the cultural side of infrastructure, describing how its intimate relationship with our way of life can illuminate a brighter path forward for cities.

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About Isaac Kremer

Isaac Kremer is a transformational leader with a track record of success revitalizing downtowns in the United States. He has written and spoken extensively. He's always on the lookout for new and innovative ideas to unlock the potential of downtown areas.

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