ULI Washington News

Recap: 17-18 Leadership Institute, Day 6, Placemaking and Design

Day 6 of the Leadership Institute convened at the Bonifant Affordable Senior Living Apartments in downtown Silver Spring.   Before springing into the day’s program on creative placemaking, staff at the Bonifant provided a snapshot of the property’s development and operations which was rounded out by cohort member Stephanie Roodman of the Montgomery Housing Partnership, who related her organization’s relationship and experience with the Bonifant.

The first session, and leadership component of the program, featured Jess Zimbabwe of the National League of Cities.  Ms. Zimbabwe’s presentation on better community engagement for land use professionals re-visited Sherry Arnstein’s Ladder of Citizen Participation as a tool for guiding civic engagement in placemaking policies.  The presentation also introduced the Walk Your City (https://walkyourcity.org/) program in Raleigh, NC;  the Mad Housers (http://madhousers.org/) in Atlanta, GA; and Plant SF (http://www.plantsf.org/) in San Francisco, CA.  These ‘Guerilla Placemakers’ all started as citizen-initiated movements, demonstrating novel, grassroots approaches to citizen engagements in placemaking.

The second session featured Juanita Hardy, Senior Visiting Fellow for Creative Placemaking with ULI.  Ms. Hardy presented best practices and case studies in creative placemaking from across the country, including the SteelStacks (http://www.steelstacks.org/) in Bethlehem, PA; the Crosstown Concourse (http://crosstownarts.org/programs-projects/crosstown-concourse/)  in Memphis, TN; the 11th Street Bridge Park (https://www.bridgepark.org/) and the Monroe Street Art Walk (https://www.monroestreetmarket.com/arts/), both in Washington, DC.  Ms. Hardy also highlighted the importance of “activating early” to generate excitement in placemaking by introducing a pop-up culinary art project which is helping to activate The Hull development in San Francisco.  Fun fact: ULI had a helping-hand in coining that term we all know and love — PLACEMAKING.

The third session was mTAP kick-off.  After being sorted into teams, each team received their mTAP assignment.  The mTAP kick-off was followed by a working lunch allowing each team to become familiar with both their assigned project and the background and skillset its members.

Lunch was followed by a tour of new development in the vicinity of the Bonifant; namely the Silver Spring Library and Central at 8455 Fenton Street.  The tour stop at the Silver Spring Library highlighted the public space design of the building, particularly as related to preserving the future right-of-way for the Purple Line which will run through the site, under the library.  Nihar Shah, Senior Development Manager for Grosvenor, provided a guided tour of the Central — a mixed-use building at the boundary between Silver Spring’s Central Business District and traditional suburban neighborhoods.  The project was conceived as a transition marker between these high and lower density areas.

After returning to the Bonifant, Matthew Steenhoek, Vice President of Development for PN Hoffman, presented the placemaking challenges in developing the District Wharf.  With approximately 10 acres of public parks, plazas, and piers, Mr. Steenhoek shared the lessons learned in activating all of this public space once construction is complete. The secret? Don’t neglect programming your public spaces.  District Wharf budgets $6 million per year for event programming.

The final session of the day was a panel discussion, moderated by Molly McKay of Willdan Financial and Economic Consulting.  The panelists: Cristina Sassaki with M-NCPPC, Montgomery Parks; Gabriela Canamar Clark, Principal at LandDesign; and Fred Kent with Project for Public Spaces.  The topic: What is the new paradigm for the post-modern city?  Pithy take-aways from the discussion: “Don’t lead with design, create a setting.” “Flexible spaces can manage themselves.” and “When a public gather place isn’t gathering people as designed: re-design and re-program.”

Post Credit: Clifton Hogan, Assistant to the Zoning Administrator, Arlington County


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