Beyond the spark that creative placemaking provided in terms of civic engagement, local arts and culture would play a role in the development process.
“Once the station areas were secured, there was an opportunity to see how local cultural assets can improve the attractiveness of those areas” says Russ Adams, Executive Director of the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability.1
“It’s absolutely central to the development efforts. You can see it in Little Mekong, in Frogtown, and even a retrofit happening on the Blue Line,” he said, referring to an American Indian Community Cultural Corridor spearheaded by Minneapolis’s Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI), which leveraged an ArtPlace grant to use an arts market to build a connection for the “dead space” between the transit line and a community center.2
The Green Line’s Western Avenue Station, one of the stations won by community groups, is in Little Mekong, a district in the Summit-University and Frogtown neighborhoods with a high Asian-American population. As community members and business leaders became involved in conversations about the future of the area, tapping into that heritage has helped attract new foot traffic.
“Little Mekong has a night market event during the summers, and they are bringing traditions to the station area, through music, food vendors, arts and crafts” says Adams. “It has been big for drawing people to the area.” Inspired by markets in Southeast Asia, local business owners had sought to capitalize on the new light rail station. The Asian Economic Development Association designed the market to attract visitors and provide small business owners and individual entrepreneurs who may not have shop space to market their products. People from across the Twin Cities have visited the markets to purchase local wares and enjoy art exhibits, dancers, musicians, and puppets, bringing positive attention to a neighborhood that was hungry for it.
Read more about the Little Mekong Night Market in the appendix section on Measurement in practice.
- Station area branding, when it is led by local businesses and community groups, is a successful strategy to draw attention and foot traffic.
- Small projects, like the Irrigate creative placemaking grants, can build capacity for local groups to take charge of their own futures, like building relationships that will serve as the groundwork for future collaborations.
- Events can be a catalyst. In Little Mekong, the night market has drawn attention to the station area, and once people attend the market, they are more likely to return.
- It takes time. The Native American corridor, for example, is a decades-long work in progress. Community building efforts require a long-term effort and strong network of support.
- Alliance for Metropolitan Stability is a coalition of grassroots organizations dedicated to racial, economic and environmental justice in growth and development that helped lead the Stops for Us campaign.
- Read the full NACDI story here at length: http://www.nacdi.org/aicc/index.cfm/history/