Immediately after I heard Varian Shrum‘s idea to create a neighborhood living room, I was pumped. How can you not get behind this idea? Free public space matters. I’m excited to see her put the $5000 Knight Foundation grant into action.
Here’s a fast, Q&A with Varian on what’s happening.
CA: Where did you get this idea?
VS: I’ve been inspired by things like Food Truck Friday and PARKing Day, which use simple activations to temporarily turn underutilized spaces into special places where people want to congregate. When I learned about the K880 Emerging City Champions program I decided to try this kind of “Tactical Urbanism” in my own neighborhood of South End, which needs more public space. The term “Neighborhood Living Room” seemed to capture the vibe I wanted to create: a comfortable place where people could gather and connect.
CA: What do you hope to accomplish?
VS: I want to create a cool hang-out spot that makes people stop and think about the built environment and how we’re using the space all around us. I hope people will begin to realize they aren’t helpless or powerless, but that they actually DO have the ability to reimagine space and affect change.
You’re already an expert on your community because you live there. If you’ve ever said to yourself, “wouldn’t it be cool if they put ___ here?” … who exactly do you think “they” is? It starts with you! After the demonstration is over, I hope use my project as a case study to help the City of Charlotte develop a permitting process to allow for similar “Placemaking” initiatives.
CA: When will it be ready to use?
VA: It opens on the evening of Thursday, October 15 and ends on the evening of Sunday, October 18 (with a tailgate/watch party for the Panthers @ Seattle game!).
CA: Who are the people you’re working with in Charlotte?
VS: Bob and Dick Fuller, the owners of Dilworth Artisan Station, have graciously allowed me to use their back parking lot for my location. I’m also working with Tobe Holmes (Director of Historic South End), Susan Patterson (Knight Foundation), and the leadership board of the South End Neighborhood Association.
I had over 50 people show up and give feedback at my Community Walk & Talk a few weeks ago, and from that bunch I asked 6 people to join my Strike Team and help coordinate the planning: Amanda Zullo (LandDesign), Hank Rhodes (Two Old Musicians), Austin Shrum (RedVentures), Krissy Oechslin (South End Neighborhood Assocation), Courtney Estes (Futo Buta), and Cory Enwall (Wells Fargo).
CA: What’s the one thing you’ve learned so far in the process?
CA: Specifically, how can Charlotte support you?
VS: Maybe this is obvious, but please come check it out once it’s all set up! Help me prove the concept works by simply showing up and enjoying yourself. Let’s demonstrate that Charlotte has an appetite for cool, free places where civic life can flourish.
If you want to get specific, I’m currently in need of pop-up food/drink vendors and I also need to figure out logistics for screening the Panthers game (like permission, possibly sponsorships). If anyone can help with these, hit me up! And of course, we’ll need volunteers once we get closer to go-time.
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Photo credit: Amanda Zullo