Spring has arrived in full force for much of the Intermountain West, and it’s time to start swapping our snow boots and shovels for shorts and flip flops. While many are taking to spring cleaning their homes, communities across the region are looking to freshen up their streets. And since placemaking is a quick and simple way to enliven our downtowns, we wanted to share some of our own community-fueled, creative placemaking projects for inspiration. Here’s to the visionary and inspiring DIY placemakers!
Click photos to enlarge.
In partnership with the City of Pocatello, Idaho; Idaho State University; and Team Better Block, Community Builders worked with a huge group of community volunteers to transform a large chunk of their somewhat-sleepy industrial area into a vibrant, active community space last fall. That meant painting multiple murals, constructing a parklet in front of Portneuf Brewery, building a pop-up park with fun activities and events, and hand-panting 8+ blocks of bright purple bike lanes.
While these were all more-or-less temporary installations, the community now has a solid vision and action plan for the permanent improvements they want to make in the coming years.
Last Summer, our friends up in Coeur d'Alene, ID threw a great block party as part of a Community Builders’ assistance project in order to test out some new placemaking and streetscaping projects along East Sherman Avenue. Complete with lawn games, live music, food trucks, and a beer garden—these guys transformed what otherwise would have been a typical public meeting into something everyone would really enjoy.
The block party resulted in some great ideas for transforming East Sherman into a more walkable and vibrant street, many of which the city already started building. If you find yourself in Coeur d'Alene this spring, be sure to stop by East Sherman and check out the creative crosswalks, planters, benches, and bump-outs they’ve already installed. Coeur d'Alene has a great action plan for more streetscaping projects moving forward, so we’re excited to see what they start building this year!
Strong at Heart is a Community Builders assistance project in Taos, New Mexico that is building a community-led vision and strategy for creating a stronger, more vibrant and inclusive downtown. After a full year of meetings and events both big and small, the community decided that it was time to really have some fun and test out some of the projects and ideas they’d been exploring.
So with $700 worth of duct-tape and face paint (yes, face paint), we worked with a great group of local youth from the Taos Education and Career Center (thanks, TECC!) to transform one of their neighborhood streets for a day. Complete with bike lanes, artistic crosswalks, parklets, bump outs, benches, food trucks, a bake sale, and live music—suffice it to say, the event was a success. Taoseños (as they call their community members in Taos) from all ages and backgrounds came out to eat, have fun, and imagine what the rest of their town could look like with a little paint and elbow grease.
Starting this spring, Strong at Heart and our partners at the Taos Mainstreet Accelerator Program are diving in full-steam-ahead on enhancing their downtown alleyways through creative placemaking. Imagine narrow, winding alleyways between historic adobe buildings lit up with string lights, public art, and plenty of places to sit, shop, or eat. Whether you’ve been to Taos before or not, you’ll definitely want to visit these alleys soon.
When the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) announced their 2023 plans to repave Main Street in Sheridan Wyoming, the community wanted to make sure they positioned themselves for success. After partnering with Community Builders to create a community vision and streetscaping plan, the community got excited about some of the ideas and wanted to get started early.
Last summer, the city decided to build a modular parklet that could provide more community gathering space in front of the historic WYO Theater. They used locally-sourced rough sawn lumber to give it that rugged, Wyoming look—and made it modular and easy to store for the winter.
The parklet was in so much demand last summer, that the city is now updating its design and moving it around to different Main Street businesses on a rotating basis starting this spring. Many of the businesses are eager to see if their sales will increase with the parklet out front, with the idea of investing in more if it proves to be a success.
Most communities simply buy parklets pre-made, so if you’re interested in building your own, check out some of the photos below.
After partnering with Community Builders to create a plan and economic strategy for their downtown, our partner’s in Gunnison Colorado are ready to roll with some great placemaking projects.
This means expanding and improving a downtown pocket park, which might include a fire pit, festival lights, stage, and dining terrace. It also means transforming a block of South Main Street into a "festival street" that functions as a normal street on most days, but can be easily closed and transformed into community event space—complete with lighting, landscaping, decorative paving, and even hookups for vendors.
Right off the bat, Gunnison is partnering with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to experiment with painted bump-outs on Highway 135, and is just about to break ground on a high-quality, lighted off-street pedestrian trail that will connect their downtown to Western State University. They’re also getting serious about their bike lanes, so if you’re passing through Gunnison anytime soon, be sure to park your car and bring a bike!
For the past couple years, Community Builders’ has been partnering with the State of Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) to run an interactive, community-fueled workshop series on creative placemaking. This winter, we had the privilege of working with the Colorado communities of Meeker and Woodland Park to get community members to really roll up their sleeves and get involved in generating ideas for great placemaking projects in their towns. The workshops were fun, well-attended, and burned though tons of markers and post-in-notes worth of great ideas (if anyone from 3M is reading, we could use a sponsorship!).
Over the course of a couple days, each community walked away with a list of great placemaking ideas, and a detailed action plan for moving them forward. Now that the spring thaw has arrived, both communities are getting ready for the fun parts—and they’re going to need a lot of paint.
Meeker is looking forward to rolling out a creative crosswalks project this summer, and has a whole list of other fun placemaking projects—from banners to parklets to community events—that they’re tucking into their upcoming summer workplans.
Woodland Park is talking about converting a few key alleyways into a fun and inviting space for pedestrians (and cars, too), and turning a public parking lot into a flexible space that can also be used for community events. Like Meeker, Woodland Park is a Colorado Main Street Community (thanks, Department of Local Affairs!), and they’re incorporating their placemaking strategy into this year’s workplan.
To learn more about hosting a Community Builders / OEDIT placemaking workshop in your Colorado town, click here.
We should think of the communities that we live in as extensions of our homes. If we want them to be fun, functional, welcoming, and exciting, it’s going to require all of us to get involved in the occasional spring cleaning. What kinds of creative placemaking projects do you have your sights set on this spring? Let us know in the comments below!