Most towns have at least one vacant storefront. Does yours? Mine does. Many more have vacant second or third (or more) stories above the ground floor, whether vacant or occupied. How does anyone fill those spaces? It takes more than an idea to create a viable business in any town; it takes money, planning, community support and then some. But, neighborhood revitalization and economic development begins with an idea, with an ounce of hope and excitement.
While a designated group may guide the development and implementation of an idea or a project, it likely grew out of ideas from many. What makes a successful endeavor is when the entire community contributes (which is why public input is an essential component of the Section 106 review process for historic resources). What is the best way to gain public interest and community involvement? Something catchy, of course. How do you come up with visions for your community? Brainstorming.
Recently, I came across a unique way to engage the community and to receive public input. It is a public art project called “I Wish This Was” created by artist Candy Chang, an artist, designer and urban planner. This project began in New Orleans, LA in November 2010 in order to figure out what the community needed and to inspire.
I love this idea. It seems so simple and so intriguing. People can voice their opinions without attending public meetings, which, frankly, most people do not enjoy. They can write on buildings (the particular stickers for sale will not cause property damage). People can scan the ideas of others for inspiration. The community can start dreaming and answering the questions, “What do you really want? What do you need in this town? In this location?”
Has anyone seen this project in person? What do you think? Would you use it in your town? It seems like a great idea. Red stickers would probably call attention to a vacant building.