The Urban Lab has been hosting annual First Friday events since 2014. Our first and most well-attended event was held at the old Goodwill on Walnut St. in Old Town (now Illegal Pete’s). This event was a real production, complete with hundreds of LED lit balloons, a full wall of projections, and design boards created in collaboration with the Landscape Architecture students at CSU. For this year’s event, the Urban Lab convened a planning committee and started planning the event two month in advance. Although we could have used more time than we were left with, we knew that our plans would yield a successful outcome.
Our planning committee decided right off the bat that this First Friday event would need to simple, public, and draw participants in so that we could engage them in ideation for the Downtown Development Authority’s (DDA) downtown microspaces initiative. Through considering Candy Chang’s interactive crowdsourcing approaches and we knew that we could approach a pre-determined question to collect amazing ideas from the public. Soon, our ideas started to come together, from installing the Urban Lab’s mobile parklet on the “porkchop” on Walnut St. and College Ave., to “yarn bombing” the structure to resemble autumn trees, to using weather resistant tags as colorful “leaves” on which people could write their ideas about microspaces and adorn the tree.
While our setup wasn’t all smooth sailing, on November 1st, the parklet was successfully moved into position onsite. By Friday the 3rd, the Urban Lab Steering Committee was on-site all day, working in shift to prepare the parklet and the porkchop to host our fourth annual First Friday Art Walk event. By 6pm, we cranked up the heaters, turned up the music, and started hosting the public and their wonderful ideas. A local partner of Create Places lent us sidewalk chalk for the night, which engaged children of visitors in drawing their ideas on the porkchop concrete. As the porkchop filled with people of all ages, the Old Town lighting ceremony happened on cue, and illuminated a fitting ambiance for a celebratory night.
Roughly two hundred people visited, talked with us about microspaces, wrote their ideas on the “leaves” and placed these thoughts on the tree branches. People suggested spatially feasible ideas like “interactive art piece,” “a place to sit,” “a park for kids,”, and some ideas that, while wonderful, wouldn’t fit in the small space like “permanent supportive housing”. We even collected ridiculous and funny things like “albino bear fighting ring” and “swan diving pool”. At the end of the night, as we were packing up our supplies, our last visitor approached to ask what we were up to. We explained the concept of microspaces and that we were crowdsourcing ideas for what the community would like to see in tiny, underused spaces in Old Town. The man took a tag and marker and wrote “Love,” handed it back, said “have a nice night,” and left with a smile.
While preparing the parklet and during the event, we heard from multiple community members that events and collaboration like this are the reason they love living in Fort Collins. People choose to live in Fort Collins because organizations and projects that shine a light on innovation, bring awareness to issues, and provide everyone the opportunity to collaborate and implement creative ideas. On December 7th, the Urban Lab members will head back to the Parklet, remove the leaves of ideas, cut down the yarn bombed tree, and the Parklet will be move on to a new location. We will synthesize those crowdsourced ideas written by our fellow community members and write suggestions for design guidelines as the next step in the DDA’s microspace initiative.
Please keep an eye out for more announcements about the initiative and other projects we’re involved in on the Urban Lab and Create Places Facebook pages. Please visit the Parklet on the Porkchop (by La Luz, at the corners of Pine, Walnut, and College) before December 8th and share your ideas with us by leaving a leaf on the tree. Thank you to everyone who already participated and who have supported the work we do over the years!