Mastering the Art of Bringing Low-Cost Rapid Change Downtown – Winnipeg, Canada

Isaac Kremer/ September 13, 2017/ tactical urbanism/ 0 comments

Mastering the Art of Bringing Low-Cost Rapid Change Downtown, International Downtown Association, Winnipeg, Canada (September 13, 2017)

There is an international trend of low-cost interventions being used to test out ideas before making large capital improvements. Pop-up parks, guerilla wayfinding, and mobile vendors are just a few innovations. During this session you will learn about projects from successful communities internationally. During this workshop you will carry out several interventions and participants will get hands-on experience. Through this workshop you’ll gain the know-how and skills needed to bring about low-cost rapid change in your downtown.

Speakers: Isaac Kremer, Jim Constantine

An historic precedent from ancient Greece was shared. There the concept Politeia embraced all the conditions of citizenship in its widest sense. Included an understanding of a culture’s origins, its cosmology, and prehistory. This notion most powerfully expressed through the Parthenon. See the Parthenon Enigma for a more in depth interpretation.

Kalliston–striving to be the most beautiful and noble, excellent.

Solon reforms from 594 BC gave new social structure.

Pentakosiomedimnoi–enough land to produce 500 measures of a grain a year, eligible for the highest offices
Hippeis–those could afford to maintain a horse and thus participate in the cavalry, held property that produced 300 measures of grain per year
Zeugitai, or teamsters, named for those who maintained a pair of oxen that could be yoked for plowing, whose land produced 200 measures a year
Thetes, common laborers, who owned no land at all and participated in only the assembly of all citizens.

This social structure as reflected in the monuments is an important starting off point.

As Plato recounts it, Socrates famously spoke these words days before his death. This quotation refers to a dream he had and the urgent need to create art in the popular sense. This captures the purpose of what we are here today.

These words were uttered less than a century after the completion of the Parthenon, and have stood the test of time as a model for individuals performing a civic duty.

Agora –the marketplace in the citer of the city, to be used for both civic and commercial activities.
Agorázô–which means “I shop.”
Agoreúô–which means “I speak in public.”

Roman concept of Civitas of a body of citizens bound together by common law was expressed here.

Res Publica–people as citizens as opposed to people as people.

Old Court House in Philadelphia on Market Street. Painting ca. 1824.

Shows what we are trying to create today. People on the streets talking, people shopping.

Vendors selling goods. While a little chaotic and disorderly, this was a place where life happened. Today might be food trucks, food carts, and mobile vendors.

In the past streets were more of a place for people to gather. Today people do not play stick ball.

No tougher area to try to transform than here in Times Square, New York City. With public safety issues, taxis, and store and property owners to navigate. Leaders there put some planters in, painted the street, and placed chairs to demonstrate what was possible.

The final treatment with permanent seating, hardscaping to make this into an area where people gather. None of this would have been possible without making the tactical interventions first.

Example from Midtown. Set the stage and people put on a performance.

Related Movements: Traffic Calming
Seattle instituted $2,000 traffic circle to encourage traffic calming. Easy implementation was critical to making projects happen quickly. Legally improvements were made temporary with the hope they will stay forever. Can monitor and remove if necessary.

Related Movement: Complete Streets
Not just about streets. Example from South Bend, thinking of buildings and how they frame streets.

Temporary installation on game day for Notre Dame. Changed the way people relate to a street and walk. Transform the relationship between people and place.

Blank walls provide opportunities. Example from Midland, Michigan. Momentum Midland activating blank walls. If walls are blank in your town, use them.

Related Movement: Beer Gardens
Midland did an online survey targeting Millennial workforce. Companies found it hard to attract and retain young workforce. They were going two hours to beer gardens in Grand Rapids and Detroit. One of first things Midland did was start a beer garden.

Dancing in the Street is another example of low-cost rapid activation of a downtown. All you need to do is find a DJ, get approval to use the space, and find people who want to dance. This photo is taken in a public square in Princeton, New Jersey.

Paint on asphalt and game pieces can create public theater.

Parklet program in Philadelphia helps to expand spaces for pedestrians, shoppers and residents. Stores frequently benefit too because the more people a parklet attracts, typically their sales rise.

Related Movement: PARK(ing) Day
PARK(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks. It is always held the Third Friday of September. This project is from outside the Looney Ricks Kiss office in Philadelphia.

Evening event with a pop-up celebration gives people an opportunity to think of range of opportunities that may occur in a public space.

Economic development may be achieved in a tactical way be encouraging people to test out their business concepts.

Related Movement: Food Trucks
William H. Whyte in his book the Social Life of Small Urban Spaces identifies food as one of the primary elements for activating public spaces. The growing food truck movement is a way to test entrepreneurial concepts without having to make large fixed investments in a location.

Related Movement: Farmers Market
Farmers Markets have become a staples in many places. Remember there is no need to shut down in November. Make the market year round to promote increased vitality and build a year-round constituency of customers. This photo is from Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.

In Lake Geneva, Switzerland. Use pallets for evening activation with lights and games. The demonstrated how to take a “no-mans land” and activate it.

Before pictures from 2001, prior to construction of Campus Martiusproject in Detroit. Several roads intersected on Woodward Ave downtown making an asphalt jumble.

One of first $25,000 Southwest Airline grants. Had ice rink at one time with sand beneath. After rink taken out of park, the sand that was left behind was used to make a beach. Paris did for residents who could not get to Riviera.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Winterfest in Philadelphia provides a winter experience. Shipping containers with food and retailhelp to activate the space.

Winter Festival market similar to models from Europe. This example is taken from Union Square in New York City.

Downtown lighting in Barcelona. Whether walking, by car, or transit, it makes the street look and feel distinct.

Related Movements: Public Art
Pink balls suspended over street in Montreal are playful and create a linear experience.

Christo “Gates” in Central Park. Thousands of people walked through cold beneath fabric. Activated space that otherwise would not have people in it during this time of year.

Related Movement: Murals
Murals are an excellent way to enliven blank walls of buildings. This example is from Philadelphia.

Related Movement: Yarn Bombing
Knitters put yarn together and place outside.

Related Movement: Community Gardens
Became quite popular in New York City in the 1970s. This was at a time when the future of these lots was uncertain. Citizens reclaimed them and this activity created stronger bonds between people and also the place that they lived. Community gardens and urban agriculture have since grown into a mass movement in communities throughout the U.S.

Example from Memphis. Some cool art things happening. Implemented road diet.

Memphis Art Commission partnered to help create a unique identity and feeling for this space.

Overton Square, extended the artsy scene. Was dead 5 years ago, now alive.

Kids with games, movable chairs and tables helped to activate this space.

Made parking garage transparent with windows. Then held a fashion show to welcome people in and activate this otherwise ordinary space.

Open porch and stage provide a performance opportunity for passersby.

Related Movement: Better Block
Started in Oakcliff neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. Broke rules in the official City Ordinance and placed them in the areas where interventions occur. Public officials were invited to the event and loved it, until they realized they probably shouldn’t be there. Later they worked collaboratively with neighborhood leaders to make sure temporary interventions like the ones that were carried out could become permanent.

After picture from Better Block project.

Easy to go to Walmart and make streets safer. People understand intuitively. Tactical interventions do not need to be major undertakings.

Lights overhead and other programming helped to activate this space.

Wiki Blocks provides designs online for interventions like these that can be done on a temporary basis.

Related Movements: Traffic Calming
Traffic calming uses physical design and other measures to improve safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. It aims to encourage safer, more responsible driving and potentially reduce traffic flow.

Related Movement: Complete Streets
Example of a road diet proposed in Milwaukee.

Tactical urbanism helped to achieve a road diet in a short time for a low cost.

Ties to classical notions from Greeks and Romans about civic duty. There is an urgent need to engage citizens today in making changes to public realm.

Wikiblock created by Team Better Block helps to bring several standardized designs to assist with your tactical interventions.

The Tactical Urbanist’s Guide is another free resource that you may download with detailed instructions, recommendations for materials, and the thinking that goes behind specific interventions.

Important for people to feel a sense of ownership in the places that they live.

Back to Speaking.

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About Isaac Kremer

Isaac D. Kremer, MSARP, is a nationally recognized expert in the revitalization of commercial districts. Professionally he is the Executive Director of Experience Princeton, a business improvement district in Princeton, New Jersey. Kremer is a sought after speaker having been invited to speak at over 30 conferences. The prior two downtowns he managed were named Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA) Semifinalists, and Metuchen, New Jersey where he and his family live was named a GAMSA winner in 2023 by Main Street America.

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