City of Oak Park
The Sherman Summer Pop Up Park is a placemaking pilot project designed to create a new community space and demonstrate how short term streetscape changes can lead to long-term changes and benefits, by utilizing tactical urbanism and a better, lighter, cheaper approach. This month long transformation is the first step in the upcoming 9 Mile Redesign, aimed at creating a vibrant streetscape, facilitating a more robust community culture, and an increasing commercial presence. Before beginning the project, the City hosted multiple community meetings to gain resident support and input for the pop up park. The residents continued their involvement by helping to set up the park and monitoring it through the month. Testing different activities and amenities at the site allowed us to introduce various options with low risk and cost. The feedback will be used to design a beautiful pocket park that will be a permanent community asset.
We utilized AARP’s Livable Communities Pop-Up Demonstration Tool Kit as a guide for this project, making it very easy to replicate. The most important step to replicate is the community outreach. This project emphasizes meeting people where they are at. Before we made any changes to the streetscape we went door to door on the surrounding streets. We talked to residents and businesses, handing out flyers and inviting them to our first community meeting about the project. At the first meeting we presented the project concept, answered the residents’ questions, and detailed the short and long-term benefits of the project. We then asked the residents to suggest and vote on names for the project, which helped to create buy in and foster ownership of the project. We held a total of three community meetings on site before the project was implemented. A business at the site offered their building to host the meetings and quickly became a strong supporter of the project. As our final volunteer activity we invited community members to help set up the space. Utilizing a lighter, quicker, cheaper approach and volunteers we were able to complete the project for under $2,000. The DIY style and low cost associated with this project helped remove the barriers of time and money usually associated with government projects.
Creativity and Originality:
The most creative and original part of this project lies in how the space has been designed and programmed. Anyone can block off a road, throw some chairs up, and claim it is a space but a space isn’t a place without people. We wanted our space to stand out and become a real place by drawing as many people as possible into it for a variety of reasons. By working with the community, recreation department, and library we were able to schedule over 25 events in the pop up park during the month of June. Programming included events such as a traditional kick off, Zumba Remix, Hula Hoop Hype, a senior social, game nights, pop up shopping days, story time, and a plant swap. By hosting so many events in the park we have been able to draw new people and do additional community outreach about the project and gain feedback which will help us to design a permanent park that the residents will enjoy.
The Sherman Summer Pop Up has brought people together. It has given the community a place to play games, drink coffee, socialize, and have lunch. The exercise classes taking place in the pop up park have helped people get active and healthy, as well as promote our other recreational activities offered through Parks and Recreation. The pop up shopping days allowed area entrepreneurs to showcase their businesses and gain new customers. The nearby businesses have benefited from greater exposure and foot traffic. It has also sparked the nearby businesses to spruce up their buildings with both businesses on Sherman repainting their buildings. The library activities have brought exposure to many of the library programs offered, especially the STEAM Makerspace activities. The project has fostered a new sense of pride in our residents and staff to make bold changes in the community and proves that working together we can achieve more. We visited the park often and talked to the people utilizing it to gain feedback. We also found that through our social media campaign, visitors from other communities were there to enjoy the space as well.