Stories make it personal
Storytelling is another way to allow people to share their perspectives in their own words and often on their own turf. This could involve hosting a story slam for community members to share an experience in the corridor where a project will go, or publicizing a request or contest for individuals to share their experience, ideas, or needs around transportation.
The Orton Family Foundation supported storytelling efforts that fed into community plans in Damariscotta, Maine, Golden, CO, and Biddeford, ME. Visit their website to read bios and learn more. The Foundation offers a free, comprehensive Community Heart and Soul Field Guide for its methodology for soliciting a community’s stories and translating those stories and values into actionable recommendations. The Foundation also has a resources page with suggestions, checklists, and tools to achieve goals like enhancing local character, encouraging inclusive government, and supporting housing choice and affordability.
Try funding small-scale projects and installations
Incentivizing local programming and activities is an easy and powerful way to put local community organizations, business improvement districts and individuals to work to improve the brand, image and appeal of corridors. While it’s not easy to turn over funds or public space to allow people to experiment, the success stories below, excerpted from the longer Twin Cities and Los Angeles case studies also available with this resource, show it can pay off.
Creative placemaking projects change the narrative during construction
The Irrigate program in Minneapolis-St. Paul leveraged the creativity of community members to transform the narrative of the lengthy construction period for the Green Line (light rail transit) from one of struggling businesses to a thriving, vibrant corridor. Irrigate is a nationally recognized local artist-led creative placemaking initiative.
The program provided funding to hundreds of artists (which they defined as anyone living or working in the corridor with a creative idea), to partner with local organizations in bringing positive attention to the corridor through activities from murals to dances to a giant dog puppet. Irrigate projects generated over 100 positive media stories, and the program’s success has spread to other communities. Visit the Springboard for the Arts Irrigate page to learn more, watch a video (below) about Irrigate’s impact featuring an introduction by former St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, and access a toolkit for replicating success in your community.
This video by Irrigate tells the story of their placemaking work during and after the construction of the Green Line. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oePXcW6axk
Los Angeles turns streets into public spaces
The City of Los Angeles’ Great Streets challenge grants award up to $20,000 to community groups to develop projects that “re-imagine our streets as vibrant public spaces.” The community-driven initiatives eligible for the grants include cultural programming for public space, or events that draw people to a Great Street. Read more about the results in our longer Los Angeles case study.
Likewise in the Twin Cities, the small size of the Irrigate grants ($1,000 or less) made for a lighter lift. “The stakes were lower” says Erik Takeshita, Deputy Director of the Local Initiatives Support Coalition, “so if a few tanked, so what.”