Roosevelt Plaza Park Placemaking in Camdenâ€™s Public Spaces
ROOSEVELT PLAZA POP-UP PARK PROJECT SUMMARY
“This pocket park stands as a testament to what all Camden parks can look like and what the future holds for Camden’s public spaces.” - Mayor Dana L. Redd
In 2014, Roosevelt Plaza Park in downtown Camden, was the site of a new Pop-Up Park. From August to December 2014, the pop-up brought flexible seating, shade, flowers, public art, and conversation starters to the doorstep of Camden City Hall. Camden’s central civic space, Roosevelt Plaza Park, was reopened in 2012 for public use after the demolition of a parking garage. The pop-up sought to enliven the existing park and encourage residents, employees, students, and visitors to spend time outside in Camden. Pop-up parks use simple, inexpensive elements to enhance public spaces. This strategy allows the public to test-drive public space improvements to see what works and what doesn’t before implementing either another round of popup interventions or more substantial capital improvements. This strategy, referred to commonly as “iterative placemaking” has the benefit of producing a public space that is bold, innovative, and responds directly to the user, as the ephemeral nature of the improvements takes the risk out of traditional, capital-intensive park projects. Cooper’s Ferry Partnership initiated the temporary improvement project in May 2014 to explore possibilities for the new but underutilized public space. The design team was tasked with creating an impactful statement in the short term, then using information gathered from the temporary improvements to identify guiding principles and make recommendations for future design interventions. The project was designed and installed over a period of three months. Funded by a grant from the William Penn Foundation.
Key building blocks of the design were IBC (Intermediate Bulk Container) totes. These 4 foot plastic and metal cubes are reusable industrial containers utilized for the transport and storage of liquids. Many businesses throughout Camden work with them, either cleaning and reselling them or using them as shipping containers. The totes at RPP, all from Camden, were transformed into a shade structure, planters, an info kiosk, and a piano house, as well as a display for public art. New American Public Art was contracted to create an interactive lighting installation for the pop-up. The piece, called ‘Blue Hour,’ used RGB LED lighting and infrared sensors to detect movement within the park, triggering the lights to fade from cool blue to soft orange when people passed close by. After dark, the totes became a colorful, interactive experience. Using time-lapse photography, the design team recorded how users interact with the space. Data collection continued for the remainder of the year to see which elements of the park worked best, and which could be improved. Findings were analyzed, summarized, and packaged into this report, which will go on to guide future park improvements. Through December, visitors to the RPP pop-up grew accustomed to a host of popular amenities: a roof of bright yellow umbrellas; familiar rhythms plucked out on the piano; bright blue Adirondack chairs dotting the lawn; and the constant sway of patio gliders. For downtown Camden, the pop-up was an entirely new type of public space, meant as an experiment to guide future public space investment. To date, the pop-up is having notable impacts on improving the quality of life needed to build a more vibrant and beautiful downtown Camden.
PURPOSE OF THIS REPORT
Above: As seen from the windows of City Hall, the 2014 Pop-Up provided shade and a pop of color for the downtown community. Amenities like this werenâ€™t previously available in the area.
The purpose of this report is to summarize the project and research findings of the popup park, to suggest other future short-term and long-term improvements. The information gleaned from the initial pop-up improvements will serve as the foundation for building a programming and capital upgrades plan to improve the aesthetic and brand of RPP, while also improving the image of, and quality of life in, Downtown Camden.
THE EXISTING PARK PARK HISTORY Roosevelt Plaza Park is a central open space in downtown Camden, located at the crossroads of three major business corridors and at the doorstep of City Hall. The historic 75,000 square foot park, originally constructed during the New Deal,reopened in June 2012 after the demolition of the Parkade Building, a mixed-use parking garage suffering from severe structural deterioration. Owned by the City of Camden, the planning and redesign of the park was overseen by the Camden Redevelopment Agency. In 2012, the CRA awarded the Camden Special Services District (CSSD), Camden’s business improvement district, a lease of the property which included responsibility to maintain, improve, and program the park. While the restored Roosevelt Plaza Park reintroduced a central open space to Camden’s downtown, a lack of park amenities has resulted in a public space that people walk “through” rather than “to”. Inspired by examples of successful “popup” interventions in other public spaces, including the Porch at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia; Corona Plaza in Queens, NY; and Discovery Green in Houston, TX; Cooper’s Ferry Partnership and the CSSD sought to implement low-cost, high-impact amenities to make Roosevelt Plaza Park a unique destination for residents, employees, bikers, and pedestrians in the City of Camden.
Above: Roosevelt Plaza Park was historically the most significant public space in Camden. Left: The Parkade Parking Garage, demolished in 2012, once occupied the Roosevelt Plaza Park site.
Above: Roosevelt Plaza Park was re-opened to the public in 2012, but lacked the amenities that would make it a destination.
Proposed Buildings, Phase 2
R I V E R
Existing Campuses Development Opportunities, Phase 1 Development Opportunities, Phase 2 Potential Development Parcels unlocked by Economic Opportunity Act
D E L A W A R E
Strategic investment in Camden’s public realm could not come at a more opportune time. After decades of decline, the City’s downtown has enjoyed a recent surge of private and public investment. As Camden’s mixed-use waterfront district continues to evolve and grow, the City’s anchor institutions, including Rutgers UniversityCamden, Rowan University, Cooper University Hospital, and the Cooper Medical School at Rowan University, collectively undertook a planning process for long-term downtown institutional development, and in the past two years have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in construction.
As a result of this development and recent state legislation that strongly incentivizes growth in Camden, these trends are anticipated to continue and accelerate. Roosevelt Plaza Park sits at the crossroads of this existing and planned development, and is the only large, public central open space in the downtown.
The implementation of the Connect the Lots project is occurring at a critical juncture in Camden’s revitalization efforts. With a new Camden County Metro police force and economic incentives provided by the Economic Opportunity Act, a reduction in crime has led to increased investment, community will, and optimism. Over the past year, shootings in the city have decreased by almost 50 percent, Camden’s first new supermarket in 50 years opened, over 5 miles of new multi-use trails that lead to parks and central destinations have been added to the city’s Camden GreenWay trail network, and the City has embarked on an ambitious plan to demolish 600 abandoned homes. These hallmarks provided the support needed to successfully plan and implement open space projects that encourage residents to spend time outside in the city. The continued activation of underused areas will ensure that neighborhood spaces in between direct investment are not overlooked in the redevelopment process. It is hoped that the ephemeral nature of the Roosevelt Plaza Park Pop-Up Park will raise awareness of the importance of translating these reimagined spaces into permanent features of the city, helping to improve access to safe, vibrant and healthy communities.
The Downtown Institutional Plan
Above: A map from the recent Downtown Institutional Plan identifies high priority development opportunities that neighbor on Roosevelt Plaza Park.
BIG PLANS FOR RPP Prior to the demolition of the Parkade parking garage in 2012, the Camden Redevelopment Agency commissioned a plan to conceptualize the new plaza. The plan (which is pictured to the left) included visionary capital elements like a new landmark headhouse to invite PATCO riders into the station, bio-infiltration gardens, and green stormwater management, and amenities to activate the public space. Using this vision as a framework, the first phase towards reclaiming Roosevelt Plaza as a public park included adding basic improvements and amenities to make the space more welcoming.
“The plaza’s urban-architectural design lays out a master plan for the surrounding streets and building blocks to create an “urban room” that framed by dense mixed-use redevelopment will plant the seed for the downtown’s return to relevance and vitality.” -2012 Roosevelt Plaza Park Plan from WRT 7
RPP TODAY As a safe, well-lit and well-maintained park, Roosevelt Plaza Park is a beautiful, but largely underused civic space in the city. Prior to the pop-up park, the space lacked the elements that attracted people and created a unique identity. Given the parkâ€™s location, approximately 27,000 people walk by each day. This critical mass of people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds has the potential, if engaged, to stimulate Roosevelt Plaza Park with the vital social capital needed to revitalize Camdenâ€™s urban core.
Above: The existing park has ample green lawns, several young trees, fixed benches, trash receptacles, bike racks, pedestrian scale lighting, pedestrian safety features like bollards, and open flat paved areas to accommodate events. The park also lacks a sense of scale and a memorable image.
POP-UP IMPROVEMENTS PROJECT BRIEF, PROGRAM AND BUDGET The design team was commissioned to provide design and planning services for temporary placemaking efforts at Roosevelt Plaza Park. The project required first identifying the needs of park users and then designing temporary and movable elements for the park. These elements were also utilized to inform the creation of this comprehensive document, which will help guide future improvements for the central public space. While the infrastructure of Roosevelt Plaza Park had been recently upgraded, the park was underused and lacked a strong sense of place. Cooperâ€™s Ferry Partnershipâ€™s vision for the development of the park was inspired by examples of new, active public spaces in other post-industrial centers that developed by taking small, iterative, and temporary steps. To provide an informative pop-up, the design team sought to implement low cost, high impact amenities to make Roosevelt Plaza Park a central destination for bikers, pedestrians, residents and employees.
A pop-up calls for elements that are easy to deploy.
Pop-Up cafe at the Battersea in London, londontheinside.com
PHS Pop-Up beer garden in Philadelphia, philly.com
Sunset Triangle in LA, pricetags.wordpress
Food Trucks at The Porch at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, uwishunu.com
Above: Corona Plaza in Queens, theuniproject.org Left: A temporary holiday light art installation at Discovery Green in Houston, discoverygreen.com.
QUAD LAWN PICNIC TABLES WITH UMBRELLAS
TO FEDERAL STREET EXIT TOTE PLANTERS
ADIRONDACK LAWN SEATING
INTERACTIVE LIGHT TOWERS
TOTES VERANDA BISTRO TABLES AND CHAIRS PATIO GLIDER ‘VERANDA’
CAFE SEATING PIANO HOUSE
TO CAMDEN CITY HALL
The site plan above shows a variety of diverse spaces meant to test user preferences.
ROOSEVELT PLAZA PARK POP UP IMPROVEMENTS
PL AZA PARK
DESIGN CONCEPT The goal of the pop-up park was to create a lively, unique, and varied design to engage users in experimental improvements. Chosen elements aimed to aid in the exploration of what might support and drive the Camden community to embrace the park. The design included amenities that were missing in the nearby public space: a shade structure, umbrellas, trees and flowers, a variety of comfortable seating, tables, and places to sit down and eat. Interactive lighting, movable furniture, a feedback box with feedback postcards; informational signage; and a freeexpression chalkboard were employed in the design to involve users in the experiment. An eye-catching central shade structure (the Totes Veranda), high design standard, and bright modern color palette helped to define the pop-up image and attract people into the space. To be successful, the pop-up needed to feel inviting and distinguished.
THE RIGHT FEEL In the design phase, mood boards helped identify the desired atmosphere of the pop-up: optimistic, urban, sophisticated and approachable.
CAMDEN INSPIRATION To achieve a design that spoke to present day Camden residents, the design team searched for local inspiration. The pop-up is aesthetically influenced by the wide array of buildings downtown, many excellent examples of the architectural styles of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and by the diverse downtown community of businesses, residents, and institutional uses. In our approach, we emulated the romantic optimism of the original New Deal-era park that once existed on the site. And, we were impressed to discover that industry is still alive and well in Camden, which drove the team to explore locally sourced materials. The team visited several recycling businesses in Camden, exploring what items might be creatively re-purposed from their intended uses and what might even be recovered from the waste-stream. Several types of containers are collected, cleaned, processed, refurbished, recycled into component materials, and resold nation-wide from these Camden businesses. For the purposes of the pop-up park, the design team gravitated towards IBC (Intermediate Bulk Container) totes, which are roughly 4’ cubes that are used to transport liquids. The galvanized-steel grid cages of the totes reflect the art deco architecture of City Hall, and the plastic insert ‘bottles’ diffuse light beautifully.
Motion sensors activate colored lights in an early prototype of the interaction for “Blue Hour” by New American Public Art
Vintage postcards showing a shining Camden downtown provided inspiration for the pop-up.
BEING RESOURCEFUL Through a little creative re-working, different types of IBC totes became planters, signage, foundations, and lighted towers. Where creating a foundation suitable to support shade sails in very windy conditions would have been costprohibitive, the totes provided opportunity to build a bespoke structure. The 33-tote structure included an interactive lighting experience created by New American Public Art called â€œBlue Hour.â€? The artists modified the totes with LED lighting and motion sensors.
THE COMPONENTS OF THE EXPERIMENT
Triggered by people moving through the park, the color change is reminiscent of the light the hour after sunset and the glow from a hearth. It reminds visitors of the warmth that can be felt by being in the presence of others and feeling the glow of sharing in community.
As a testing ground for ideas, the pop-up needed to explore and push some boundaries. The ephemeral nature of temporary improvements allowed for unconventional materials, such as using IBC totes as building blocks for structures, lighting, and planters. Furnishings were selected to provide variety and maximize seating type options. This made it possible to observe what kinds of seating park users preferred. The team scoured local stores for furnishings and used several well-known online discount retailers to find items with the right look at the right price point. With the exception of the Fermob folding bistro chair (which is widely used in public spaces internationally) many of the main park elements came from alternative sources, some of which worked better than others. The durable orange chairs and gray cafe tables that were used in The Grove came from BizChair. com, and they performed very well. The popular blue Adirondacks were by far the best value, and were bought directly from Adams Manufacturing. The patio gliders came from theSimpleStores. com and had to be returned more than once because they arrived damaged. Hayneedle. com was the easiest supplier to work with as the website provides special services for business accounts. The residential umbrellas proved to not be durable enough for the windy site. In future pop-ups, commercial-grade umbrellas would be a worth-while investment. We found that 70 lb. steel umbrella bases were sufficient for the 8â€™ umbrellas.
A KIT OF PARTS Above, from left to right and top to bottom: IBC Tote from Camden (refurbished) $160, Patio Glider Set $1050, Patio Umbrella (with 70 lb. steel base) $200, Plastic Adirondack Chair $15, Iconic Metal Folding Chair $75, Resin Side Chair $80, 36â€? Table $225, Unfinished Picnic Table $95, Locking Mailbox for Feedback Postcards $40.
TEMPORARY GREENING Planters provided the pop-up with color and movement. The plants were installed at the end of the New Jersey growing season, so the designers choose a variety of species that look just as good in the fall and winter as they do in the spring. Perennials (flowering plants that will come back again in the spring) along with trees and shrubs lent the space additional structure and interest. A handful of annuals added pops of seasonal color.
Top Left: The Weeping Willow Trees and Crape Myrtle Trees planted in The Grove both have nice fall color and decorative bark for winter interest. Below: Perennials like Cone Flower and Little Bunny Grass were interspersed between dwarf willows and evergreen shrubs.
BUILDING BLOCKS IBC totes from two Camden recycling businesses were delivered to a warehouse about two blocks away from Roosevelt Plaza Park, where they were staged and modified prior to installation. Artists installed lights, motion sensors, wiring, and timers in 25 of the totes for the art piece, “Blue Hour.” To make planters out of 14 of the totes, the plastic insert “bottles” were cut with a circular saw. To install the totes, Camden Special Services District ambassadors moved the totes to the park using a truck with a lift-gate and a hand-operated pallet jack. An all-metal “sardine-can” style tote at the base of each tote tower was filled with sand to create a solid foundation for the structure. Using a fork-lift, the totes were stacked on top of one another, then each stack was placed onto the metal foundation tote. The towers were then leveled with shims of painted pressure-treated lumber. The towers were fastened together with 8 chain-link fence clamps per level. Using ladders, Department of Public Works employees set up the electrical wiring between towers and fastened the shade sails to the structure.
CREATIVE SOLUTIONS When options for planters and sheltering for the piano were found to be unavailable within budget, the team commissioned some clever custom-built elements that were made from basic lumber and common corrugated metal sheeting. An aluminum-core sign with an outdoor brochure box and wallmounted mailbox was mounted to a tote in the center of the park. This simple set-up was found to be an effective tool for collecting feedback in the park.
POP OF COLOR Site furniture provided the opportunity to bring color into the park. The bright hues helped to give each space an identity and certainly contributed to a positive and optimistic image for the pop-up. While speaking at the press conference for the pop-up opening, Camden Mayor, Dana L. Redd, noted that now the park â€œpops with colorâ€?.
ELECTRIFY THE NIGHT At night, when the park is still, the totes structure glows a cool blue, but when people move through the space, their motion activates the lighting, causing the lights to warm into a soft orange tone.
STUDY METHODOLOGY ITERATIVE PLACEMAKING Roosevelt Plaza Park was unique in that its simple, inexpensive amenities test-drove public space improvements to see what did and didn’t work before implementing either another round of pop-up interventions, or more substantial capital improvements. This strategy, referred to as “iterative placemaking,” has the benefit of producing a public space that is bold, innovative, and responds directly to the user, as the ephemeral nature of the improvements takes the risk out of traditional, capital-intensive park projects. To analyze the use of Roosevelt Plaza Park and to inform recommendations for future interventions, the team of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, Group Melvin Design, and Sikora Wells Appel devised a unique methodology that used both qualitative and quantitative data to analyze the site. The initial methodology was inspired by noted urbanist and public space researcher William Whyte’s seminal “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces,” relying primarily on time-lapse photography and observations to analyze the site from above and at a distance. Yet after the pop-up interventions were constructed, the team realized that the initial methodology treated the park more like a petri dish than a public space. This conclusion led to the refinement of the methodology to ensure not just the quantitative, but the qualitative human story of the park was captured.
in 5 months, the team collected...
500+ 124 hours of timelapse footage
visitor surveys & feedback postcards submitted
3,818 121 park users and activities mapped
mapping surveys completed
Data Collection Methodology For the team’s analysis of Roosevelt Plaza Park, the team recognized that the study had to tell a story through both quantitative data and qualitative observations and user feedback. To accomplish this, a multi-pronged strategy was devised that used several different tools to analyze the site:
To watch timelapse footage, visit: http://tinyurl.com/RPPtimelapse
Time-lapse Photography: The initial methodology relied primarily on time-lapse photography to capture user movement, activities, and interactions in the space. The team quickly found that William Whyte’s primary disclaimer of this technique, that recording the film is easy, and that evaluation is the hard part, was as true using modern equipment in the 21st century as it was for Whyte in the 1970’s. However, while there were limitations to what could be observed using time-lapse photography, it was a valuable tool for seeing that which is invisible to the human eye in real-time. The ability to capture imagery of the entire site all-at-once, and play back video of park users at hyper-speed allowed the team to observe patterns of movement, usage throughout the day, and patterns influenced by environmental conditions that would have otherwise been invisible. And while the time-lapse photography was limited when mounted from a site-wide vantage point in the windows of City Hall, our team recorded additional video with cameras mounted directly in the park in order to make more direct, activity-focused, area-specific observations. Throughout this process, both the Mayor’s Office and the Camden County Administration Offices were incredibly generous with their window-space by allowing the team to mount our cameras from their offices.
Mapping Surveys: Roosevelt Plaza Park is cleaned and maintained by the Camden Special Services District (CSSD), who staffed the pop-up with an employee throughout the week, with more limited hours on weekends. Time-lapse photography is limited in its ability to see the close-up and personal, and so the design team met with CSSD staff to get their help in filling out on-the-ground mapping surveys of user activity at the park. While the survey was limited by the hours during the day that CSSD staff worked, the CSSD did an exceptional job of capturing data that recorded the type of user, location, and what they were doing at the park. This data was coded in digital maps produced by the design team that allowed for the exploration of a number of different variables and conditions observed in more than 50 mapping surveys. Visitor Surveys: In addition to the mapping surveys, CSSD staff also helped to complete visitor surveys that recorded additional information about users that would have not been obtained through observation. Initially, the survey was only provided through an online survey platform, but the team realized that an online survey was not the right platform for effectively reaching the constituency that uses the park. Revising the strategy, a paper copy of the survey was produced that CSSD staff helped distribute to more than 50 park visitors.
Feedback Postcards: One of the most successful tools for obtaining user feedback was the custom feedback postcard tool developed by the design team. Mounted on a central planted tote within the park, this tool consisted of four simple elements: a set of colorful pop-up park postcards with two questions on the back, pens, a mailbox, and explanatory signage. The postcard sought to find out what people liked most about the pop-up interventions, and what they would like to see in the future. The team received more than 70 postcards, and with several more hopefully taken as souvenirs by park users - a covert way for the design team to spread the word about the park!
PUBLIC CHALKBOARDS: To collect feedback on park usersâ€™ hopes and dreams for the space, two community chalkboards were installed at the pop-up. The first was mounted to the back of the piano, and the second chalkboard was installed in front of the park, and served as a place for people to contribute their drawings, hopes, and names to the space.
POP-UP STORIES: Perhaps the most powerful qualitative feedback the design team collected was through a series of testimonial interviews conducted with park users, which the design team turned into minidocumentaries dubbed â€œPop-Up Stories.â€? Speaking one-on-one with park users, the design team was inspired to record and create minidocumentaries detailing the stories of several different park users. This work most accurately captured the human impact of Roosevelt Plaza Park, which the team found to be extremely powerful given the many decades of decline and disinvestment experienced by the City of Camden and its residents.
the tote veranda
INTERVENTION AREAS The park interventions, while interrelated, created a variety of different spaces in order to test user preferences and patterns at the pop-up. What follows is a discussion and analysis of the team’s observations of each of the “outdoor rooms.”
THE GROVE Perhaps the most defined of the ‘outdoor rooms’, the Grove was bordered by custom-design corrugated planter boxes, the outdoor piano, and sprinkled with IBC tote planters. Our mapping survey showed that this area was a popular draw for a lunchtime crowd, and the wider tables were successful in accommodating and encouraging groups of up to four people per table, with visitors spending anywhere between 10-45 minutes on average at a table. A review of timelapse photography mounted on a nearby IBC Tote reveals some of the rhythms of the Grove. Groups of people congregate at all times of the day, but it’s shortly after noon when this area is at its peak and when lunch-time crowds fill nearly all the available tables with takeout food purchased from local restaurants. Also notable is the diversity of this group, consisting of professionals, students, and everyday residents.
THE PIANO One of the most loved features of the Grove was undoubtedly the outdoor piano, which immediately attracted pianists, dancers, and conversation from the moment it was installed. The addition of the piano was inspired jointly by the rich musical history of the City and the diverse population that occupied the park and its surroundings. We thought â€“ â€œwhat interactive design element could transcend social class, race, even language?â€? The answer we came up with was to do something with music. We hoped that the addition of an outdoor piano would encourage the diverse group of park users (e.g. the homeless, clinic patients, students, professionals, judges, etc.) to stop, play a tune, and interact. In this sense, the piano was a major success Consider one mid-September afternoon at the piano. Over the course of these four hours on a sunny September day, we observed two primary pianists, one a clinic patient, and one a local minister, who played for extended periods of 1-2 hours. Both talented musicians, their playing attracted over 20 other individuals, which included a mix of professionals, people eating lunch, local residents, other clinic patients, and several other curious pianists to the site. The most common sight to see were groups of 2-4 individuals spontaneously interacting with each other and the pianist. A resident remarked to us that the piano allowed people of any stripe to step outside of their normal element, and to be looked at not by how they dressed or talked, but by what they could do, and what they were capable of.
If viewing on a PDF, click here to hear a sample of the outdoor piano being played.
“Este parque me trae alegría y amor …. para mostrarle a estas personas aquí que están con cosas difíciles—como las drogas. Para mi, con mi instrumento, un piano, les enseñó amor…. Yo veo como ellos buscan el amor y el apoyo de otras personas. El privilegio para mi vida es llenar con voces, música la ciudad de aquí, Camden …” - Junior Osvaldo Cruz
Junior Osvaldo Cruz brought music and joy to the pop-up park, no matter the season
English Translation: “This park brings me joy and love .... to show these people here who are going through difficult thingslike drugs. For me, with my instrument, the piano, I can show them love .... I see how they seek love and support from others. My life’s privilege is to fill this city, Camden, with music and voices... “
“Kites is what really brings me here, because this brings families together children, to the old, they all fly, they all have fun. This builds your self-esteem because when you flying it, you feel so good about your accomplishments, this is something you’re doing. A kid, two years old was just flying a kite. Don’t say you can’t do it, you can do anything you put your mind to”. - Kevin the Kiteman 36
THE LAWN While not a ‘designed’ space, our analysis found that the lawn is an area with potential for future interventions with a very light touch. At 75,000 square feet, most of which is well-maintained, largely unobstructed lawn, Roosevelt Plaza Park is one of the largest usable green spaces in the City and arguably its most accessible, sitting at the nexus of several commercial corridors, transit lines, and easily accessed on foot or by bicycle. Our team observed that the pop-up helped spur unplanned, organic use of the lawn spaces which had not been occurring prior to the interventions. Basking in the sun on an Adirondack chair, a game of Frisbee, outdoor Tai Chi, and a gentleman called “Kevin the Kiteman” who regularly showed up teach children and spread the joy of flying kites, were some of the most notable people and activities that took advantage of the lawn’s uniquely wide open spaces and expansive views of City Hall. Though the design focused on the north west portion of the lawn by defining that space with the pop-up elements, observation showed that the open lawn spaces south of the Tote Veranda was popular for active uses such as kite-flying and Frisbee. The small strip of lawn defined by trees at the north east was the most popular area for lounging on the lawn.
To watch Kevin the Kiteman’s Pop-Up Story, visit: http://tinyurl.com/RPPkevin
“Kevin the Kiteman” shows a group of Camden youth how to fly a kite
THE PICNIC TABLES The Picnic Tables were popular for sitting, chatting, and for having a meal at lunchtime. Set up as a communal table along Market Street, the location was intended to engage passersby and customers of the restaurants along Market Street. In designing this space, we wanted to test the viability of outdoor dining along this burgeoning restaurant corridor. The consistent use of the tables proved this amenity is in-demand among daily park users. While the picnic tables did provide a comfortable place to sit, and while people did eat meals there, the space could have been enhanced through the principle of triangulation, further detailed later in this report. As an arrangement of elements, this space was not multi-dimensional in nature, and could be enlivened in future iterations through the addition of other complementary elements (a food vendor, for example) to create a better sense of place. Intensive improvements here will interface with an existing demand, making investment at the Market Street edge of the park a high-impact improvement.
THE ADIRONDACK CHAIRS As the most lightweight and flexible of the moveable furniture, following the path of Adirondack chairs was incredibly informative in analyzing where people felt most comfortable relaxing in the space. People used the chairs in all kinds of ways: in groups, alone to relax, and even to nap. What was notable was where the chairs all moved to. The original arrangement clustered the Adirondack chairs near the center of the interventions, as shown in the diagram to the right. Gradually however, the Adirondack chair cluster moved in a clockwise pattern a little bit each day until landing in its final resting place within the rectangular planted strip at the north east end of the park. This pattern seemed to have occurred for two reasons. The first is shade. Timelapse video revealed that the Adirondack chairs followed the clockwise pattern of the shadow cast from City Hallâ€™s tower throughout the day. In the afternoon when the shadows from City Hall had disappeared, users grouped many of the Adirondack chairs around the little bit of shade they could find, sometimes clustering 3-4 chairs under the shade of a single young tree. The second reason relates to where people tend to sit within a space. William Whyte found that users of plazas in New York tend to gravitate towards the edges of spaces, choosing rather to be observers in clusters looking in rather than the central, main attraction. If we look at a map of where people generally sat in Roosevelt Plaza Park, including Adirondack chairs and other types of seating, we see a ring forming around the central open space. On beautiful evenings throughout the study period, users would take advantage of the excellent view to the Philadelphia skyline, setting up the Adirondack chairs so they all faced west for a sort of sunset theater. Overall, we learned that the Adirondack chairs were a wellloved piece of the park, and at a cost of $15 a piece, a very sound investment. The movement of the Adirondack chairs to the northeast rectangular area of the park informs us that it would be worthwhile to enhance that space for passive uses in the future. It is also worth repeating that while the chairs would have been exceptionally easy to steal, not a single chair left the site.
Male Female Kid
Map of user location preference for moveable adirondack chairs
THE TOTE VERANDA Sitting at the intersection of two primary pathways, the Tote Veranda functions as both a ‘room’ and a gateway, accommodating both movement through the site and flexible seating options. The tote veranda was the central organizing feature and the landmark that announced a new type of RPP. Our mapping survey indicated that both the café tables and gliders were popular among users of this space, though not as popular for lunch crowds as the Grove and Picnic Tables. As an easily identifiable gathering place, the main function that the Veranda ended up performing was to support programmed events. From this observation, we can determine that future iterations or interventions in this area of the park should allow for free flow of movement and pedestrian activity, while also offering amenities and seating for park users on a daily basis. To accomplish this, design interventions should help define space, but should not include expansive walls or elements to severely restrict movement, except for perhaps on the southern end of the plaza area. Any element here must be flexible enough to accommodate both daily use and a gathering of 30 – 200 people. The interactive light display added a new dynamic to the Veranda after dark, encouraging visitors to engage with the towers and discover their hidden function. However, while the interactive light display was very well received when seen, peak visitor hours (approximately 8am to 5pm) at the park limit the potential audience for the lights. For future displays, educational signage may be helpful to inform park visitors about the interactive lights and how they work, rather than letting people hear only by word of mouth.
“I’ve lived here in Camden a total of 27 years, and we’ve never had anything like this. The City of Camden has been neglected for so long because we are like “the bad people”...and to have somebody just care enough to give this - it’s the smallest thing, but it’s the biggest thing”. - Jennifer Wowk
KEY OBSERVATIONS From our analysis, several key themes emerged that helped us analyze the impact of park interventions, as well as what aspects of the park worked well and what could be improved.
A PARK TO BE PROUD OF Prior to construction, some stakeholders expressed serious concerns that the park would be subject to vandalism at the outset. Yet to date, not a single incident of vandalism has occurred, nor has a single chair been stolen (and the Adirondack chairs, which are light, would have been exceptionally easy to steal).
of park users said they loved the pop-up because it was clean, safe, and beautiful.
it was a great place to meet friends, sit and relax.
it’s activites, such as kites and the piano.
it improved the City.
Our observations lead us to a few conclusions as to why fears of vandalism did not come to pass. The first is that the park was designed with a high-quality aesthetic and a sense of trust that users would ultimately be good stewards of the space. William Whyte noted in his observations that “places designed with distrust get what they were looking for”. As such, regular users of the pop-up soon developed a sense of ownership over the space and began to perform simple tasks to maintain the park (such as throwing out litter, reporting park elements that looked scuffed or damaged, etc.), while their presence provided the “eyes on the street” that the space lacked previously. The second factor was the presence of a visible maintenance arm and a park “mayor”, a term William Whyte used to describe friendly building guards, newsstand operators, food vendors, or others whom function as communicators and ambassadors for the park. Roosevelt Plaza Park’s ‘mayor’ was Jennifer, the CSSD employee charged with primary maintenance of the park. Jennifer not only cleaned the park, but befriended many of its visitors, enthusiastically championed the project, and was instrumental in all on-the-ground survey efforts. As Jennifer befriended park users, they became less likely to litter, or to allow others to, because they knew that any trash left in the park would have to be picked up by a friend. Jennifer’s presence and enthusiasm for the park inspired a sense of community and ownership amongst regular park users. These findings indicate the presence of a friendly and active maintenance employee and a high-quality design is vital to engender a sense of ownership and community. Damage that was sustained to park improvements was mostly limited to regular wear and tear, and the exceptionally strong wind gusts that blow through the space.
To watch Jenniferâ€™s Pop-Up Story, visit: http://tinyurl.com/RPPjennifer
Jennifer Wowk Camden Special Services District Ambassador
LOCAL & FREQUENT VISITORS Overall, most of the people who used Roosevelt Plaza Park were Camden residents. Another group that was well represented were visitors who had to come downtown, but that decided to stop by to check out the park. A smaller number of visitors to the park included students, nearby employees, and visitors to waterfront attractions.
park users WATERFRONT VISITOR RPP VISITOR
Most visitors were regulars to the park, as 78% of visitors came to the park 3-5 times per week. From observations and talking to users, we also noted that people generally spent longer amounts of time in the park than is typical for a downtown, business district park or plaza. Nearly half of the parkâ€™s visitors arrived on foot, indicative of the fact that the park was primarily populated by Camden residents, and also likely attributable to the observation that many arrived to the park from other nearby destinations, such as City Hall, the methadone clinic, and nearby commercial and social services. Bus and car were the next most popular forms of transportation to the park, with 20% arriving by each mode evenly. Bike commuters were well represented as well, as 8% of visitors arrived by bicycle. Interestingly, despite the presence of the PATCO Station across the street, only 4% of visitors arrived via PATCO. A review of timelapse video shows that many PATCO riders likely donâ€™t give the park a second look, as most riders who stop at City Hall make a direct beeline north on 5th Street to classes, jobs, and other activities along Cooper Street. As for gender and age, male and female visitors were fairly evenly split, with about 40% of visitors being women, and about 58% of visitors being men, and 2% were children. These findings indicate that while the park was successful in serving local adult residents, future interventions may strive to do more to attract other nearby user groups, including local employees and students at nearby universities, as well as children.
58% 40% 2% men women
of park users visited the park 3-5 times a week for a variety of activities
ONLY 7% OF THOSE SURVEYED REPORTED SIMPLY WALKING BY, WITH MANY VISITORS SPENDING LONG PERIODS OF TIME ENJOYING THE PARK WITH OLD AND NEW FRIENDS
of park visitors were Camden residents
modes of transportation
49% walk 20% bus 19% car 8% bike 4% PATCO
PATHWAYS AND MEETING POINTS Reviewing timelapse video of movement and interaction on the site reveals the pulse of life at Roosevelt Plaza Park throughout the day. The two primary pathways utilized by park visitors are the narrow diagonal connecting the entrance of City Hall to 5th and Market Streets, and the wide plaza space extending from City Hall to 5th Street. Secondary pathways include the two pathways that run parallel to City Hall’s front façade. The narrow diagonal, while officially terminating at the wide plaza in front f City Hall, in essence extends to the eastern edge of the park, as reflected in a desire line cut through the grass. These patterns are consistent at different intensities throughout the day and evening, and are consistent with the land use patterns within Camden’s downtown. While there is a new Nursing School planned for the site just south of Roosevelt Plaza Park, the lack of active uses there, and concentration of active uses on Market, Cooper Street, and at City Hall focus activity towards the north end of the park. These movement patterns reveal points of intersection, or meeting points, within space. The Tote Veranda sits at the crossroads of both primary and secondary pathways, and therefore functions as a natural hub of activity.
Camden City Hall
Future Site of Nursing School (Downtown Institutional Plan 2013)
Market Street Restaurants
PATCO City Hall Station
LEGEND Pop-Up Intervention Area
Meeting Point Clusters
Primary Pathways Secondary Pathways
Camden County Prosecutor
n ra T J
THE SOCIAL LIFE OF ROOSEVELT PLAZA PARK
“We’re here everyday, just to sit, meet-up, and sit around, laugh and talk, have a little lunch, breakfast, you know... the restaurant across the street is getting our money every morning”!
William Whyte said that “the best-used plazas are sociable spaces”, and in that sense, Roosevelt Plaza Park was a very successful place. Whyte noted the fact that the greatest attractor of people is other people, an interesting contrast to the common perception that people visit parks to “get away from it all.” While that sentiment may be true, the presence of people makes spaces feel more comfortable for other potential users. One of the interesting things we observed at the park was that it was dominated by groups, and not by lone individuals. This was a notable change from conditions prior to the pop-up park, where the barren user accommodations and isolated single benches made it more difficult, or at least a lot less comfortable, for groups of varying size to form spontaneously. Flexible seating options and the creation of various “rooms” or space types within the park allowed for a design scheme that allowed small, medium, and large groups to feel comfortable. As such, visitors could easily move a chair aside if they wanted some space and breathing room, but it was just as easy for friends to congregate around a picnic table, cafe table, or group of lawn chairs.
of park users loved loved the pop-up because it was a good place to sit and relax. clean, safe, 40% itandwasbeautiful.
14% it improved the 6% City.
Male Female Kid
- Tracy, Camden resident
it’s activites, such as kites and the piano.
Map of seating patterns in the park, showing a tendency towards group interaction
To watch the friendâ€™s Pop-Up Story, visit: http://tinyurl.com/RPPfriends
A group of friends from Camden and Cherry Hill who enjoy meeting up in the park
TRIANGULATION & SPECTACLE So what brought all these visitors and groups to the space? To answer this question, it is important to note William Whyte’s theory of triangulation. Triangulation works as a simple 1 + 2 = 3 equation. First, an arrangement of compatible design elements creates a “place” (examples can include a coffee cart, tables and chairs, and shade structure to create an outdoor cafe). Second, a component of spectacle or curiosity is added to the place (Whyte identifies spectacles as colorful characters, sculptures, entertainers, even interesting vistas). These two elements add up to “triangulation,” or the interaction and connection between strangers. By first creating a feeling of “place,” and then adding fun elements such as the piano and interactive lights, Roosevelt Plaza Park prompted conversations between strangers from different walks of life. The arrangement of elements such as seating, shade, planters, and structure was intentionally designed to create outdoor rooms throughout the park, each with their own character and feel. The elements that elicited the most buzz were undoubtedly the tote towers, piano, and interactive lights, but many regular visitors to the park were surprised and delighted to see such simple elements as the Adirondack chairs, gliders, picnic tables, custom-designed planters, and cafe seating suddenly “pop-up” in a familiar space.
Creation of a “place” through design elements
Triangulation in Motion A spectacle or curiosity
Interaction & connection between strangers
â€œTriangulation is the process by which some external stimulus provides a linkage between people and prompts strangers to talk to other strangers as if they knew each otherâ€?. - William H. Whyte 49
PROGRAMMING Overall, the greatest share of visitors to the park occurred in the morning and mid-day hours during the weekday, and tapered off sharply in the afternoon and evening. Part of this rhythm likely stems from existing patterns in place before the pop-up interventions. The park, which is County owned, technically closes to visitors at dusk, and there is a very small residential population within the immediate vicinity of the park, reflecting the fact that land uses within Camden’s downtown are dominated more so by jobs than they are by bedrooms. This rhythm is also likely reinforced by City Hall and other nearby businesses and services that operate on a 9am-5pm schedule. While users remarked that they loved the interactive lighting elements of the park, evening visits to see the lights were limited. Whether this is an issue or not is a matter of choice. A mid-September Third Thursday event was successful at bringing a large and diverse crowd to the park in the late afternoon/evening through simple programming elements such as music, interactive lights, and inexpensive outdoor games and activities. Because of the lack of a downtown residential population nearby, regular programming would enable the park to serve more users in the evening, during weekends, and mid-day during the week.
of park users hope to see more programming and events in the future
35% additional design features & facilities 18% a playground and kid-friendly activities 9% safety improvements
“It’s just good to see some positivity in the City. Everybody comes here to have fun - parents come, let their kids play...it’s more enjoyable now, this brings unity”. - Pat, Camden resident 50
ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS & DURABILITY The effects of environmental conditions on the siteâ€™s use were fairly predictable with respect to temperature and precipitation. Shade structures within the site did also have the effect of helping alleviate the impacts of direct sunlight. The tote towers, shade canopies, and umbrellas, in conjunction with comfortable seating options, all helped encourage users to visit and spend more time in the park. The most important environmental condition to note was the impact of the heavy wind gusts experienced in the park. By November, wind gusts had damaged all of the yellow umbrellas in the Grove and one of the large blue umbrellas at the picnic tables. The design team, knowing that the pop-up was temporary, chose high-quality residential umbrellas for these areas in order to stay in budget, but future interventions should consider the importance of more durable shade structures if these elements are intended to last more than a few months.
“Look at everybody - how they’re enjoying each other... It’s just an enjoyable place.” - Jennifer, CSSD Ambassador
INCREMENTAL SUCCESS As was outlined in the Study Findings section of this report, the Pop-up improvements to Roosevelt Plaza Park have clearly demonstrated the benefits of high-quality public space in downtown Camden. RPP was transformed from a place which people were more likely to walk through, to a popular destination, activated with well appreciated amenities, and lots of reasons for people to strike up a conversation. The park has engaged the community, and has proven that RPP can be a safe and sociable place at the front door of City Hall. The success of the project and the extent to which it was quickly embraced by park users, exceeded the expectations on all accounts. Perhaps most importantly, the pop-up acted as an incremental step towards the future of RPP, inviting the community to have confidence in the potential of the park. The pop-up provided a low-risk, and less controversial way to test what challenges might exist. It helped identify community preconceptions and gathered those who might become stakeholders together. It was an opportunity for the community to visualize what might eventually be.
LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE Proven Winners ENGAGING AND INTERACTIVE ELEMENTS
The piano, the interactive lighting experience, events, and feedback opportunities all engaged the community and proved to be a hit. These elements could be enjoyed by anyone who wished to use them, making the park an inviting community space that all kinds of individuals had the opportunity to be involved in.
A SENSE OF TRUST
The high level of design and finish of the pop-up did more than beautify the space, it also invited stewardship of the park. Park elements that could be easily damaged or stolen required a sense of ownership from the community if they were to be a success, and the community in turn took great care of the park. The appearance of trust in the community sets in motion a cycle of high expectations to be continually exceeded.
At RPP, several elements grouped together created exciting nodes within the park, a social phenomenon often referred to as â€˜triangulation.â€™ Opportunities might exist to capitalize on this force of nature and group amenities around existing site conditions that draw people to certain areas of the park. For example, the excellent view to the Philadelphia skyline, along with the early-day shade from city hall might make the northeast corner of the park a great place to focus amenities.
A COMFORTABLE PLACE TO BE
Improvements that increased the basic comfort and usability of the park were among the most popular in our studies. The shade structure and the blue chairs were a very popular part of the 2014 pop-up and several visitors commented that they would like to see a drinking fountain at RPP. Park improvements should make the park a more comfortable place for people to be.
MAINTENANCE, SAFETY, AND AMBASSADORS Placemaking Tactics ATTRACT
Increase the number of attractors, amenities, and activities at the park, giving each potential visitor many reasons to stop by and multiple chances to find something unexpected. As was famously said by William Whyte, “the biggest attractor of people is other people.” Leverage the social capital existing in downtown Camden by bringing the city together in front of City Hall. Strive for a unique atmosphere that supports spontaneity and a sociable feel.
The positive impact of ongoing maintenance at the park cannot be overstated. Beyond keeping the park tidy and performing it’s best, the people who maintain the park become ambassadors to the community. The presence of a familiar face, someone who is there as a champion of the public space, engenders trust and reinforces high expectations for the park and visitors alike. Security, along with the perception that the park was a safe and peaceful place, was also paramount to the success of the pop-up. Additional security patrols helped to set a standard of accepted behavior at the park, making the space more usable for everyone. With a diverse population of visitors at various times throughout the day, the community developed a sense of ownership, but the park still remained a welcoming place for all visitors.
A 2013 MIT white-paper, Places in the Making, found that “The iterative actions and collaborations inherent in the making of places nourish communities and empower people.” This process is referred to as the virtuous cycle of placemaking. Temporary experimental improvements not only give us an opportunity to learn about RPP, they give the community a real world way to be engaged in longer-term development.
Don’t only hit repeat, bring the next iteration to the next level. Expand engagement in new ways and support this venture in the built elements of the park. Include elements that can adapt as needed to changing park requirements.
ENGAGEMENT AND PROGRAMMING Future improvements should be made with a floating touch, leveraging the power of temporary elements to garner excitement. Engage visitors, be playful. Create a buzz with design that is bold, magnetic, and sculptural. The image of RPP should be a good one: optimistic, enjoyable, inclusive, and safe. The next phase will build on the iterative placemaking process, further exploring the needs and preferences of the community, and carrying forward momentum.
THE VIRTUOUS CYCLE AND COMMUNITY CAPACITY At various venues around Camden, creative programming has proven to engage visitors. 2015 improvements should expand on the available activities at RPP. Events and programed activities are needed in downtown Camden’s open spaces and these should be supported in the physical park designs. Opportunities to include vendors in the daily operations of the space should be explored.
“There is endless opportunity to improve existing places through programming: the making is never finished.” – Places in the Making Community engagement through programming brings an important layer to the placemaking process that should not be missed out on. As explained by Elena Madison of the Project for Public Spaces, placemaking has powerful potential to build the social capacity of a community when utilized as a platform for community engagement. As Madison stated, “Building capacity is about convincing the community they can do it too.” At RPP, the social successes of the 2014 pop-up point to a community that is ready to embrace and steward high quality public space. The spirit of optimism and an eye toward what could be is already alive and well at RPP.
“Don’t say you can’t do it. You can do anything you put your mind to.” - Kevin the Kite Man 58
and recommendations for next year 5TH STREET
GATEWAY Enhance the sense of arrival
THIS OPEN SPACE WAS UTILIZED FOR EVENTS SEVERAL TIMES, OFTEN ACCOMODATING A TENT, PODIM AND SEATING
THIS SPACE PROVED POPULAR FOR ACTIVE USES, SUCH AS KITE FLYING
THIS PATH IS THE MOST HEAVILY USED, YET ONE OF THE NARROWEST AT RPP
REMOVE PICNIC TABLES AND UMBRELLAS, PROVIDE MORE DURABLE DINING FURNITURE
REPURPOSE PLANTERS WITHIN RPP NEXT YEAR (TREES MAY OR MAY NOT REMAIN) INFO TOTE WAS A SUCCESSFUL DATACOLLECTION TOOL CONSIDER RE-USING OR TRYING OUT SIMILAR TOOLS
TO FEDERAL STREET EXIT
PICNIC DINING Continue to provide dining with a design TOTE PLANTERS AND CUSTOM that addresses the PLANTERS IN THE GROVE CAN REMAIN FOR NEXT YEAR. PERENNIAL street
‘BLUE HOUR’ WAS WELL APPRECIATED. INCLUDE INTERACTIVE ELEMENTS IN THE FUTURE
PLANTINGS WILL PERSIST, ADD FLOWERS SEASONALLY AS NEEDED
PLANTER GROVE Repeat it next year TOTES VERANDA Re-assemble the totes into a new creative ‘landmark’ BISTRO TABLES AND CHAIRS ARE IN GOOD CONDITION, RE-USE THEM AS DESIRED ASESS THE CONDITION OF THE PATIO GLIDERS AND RE-USE AS DESIRED
CAFE SEATING IS IN GOOD CONDITION AND SHOULD REMAIN ASESS WHETHER THE PIANO SHOULD RETURN. THE PIANO SHELTER CAN BE MODIFIED TO BETTER PROTECT THE INSTRUMENT FROM THE ELEMENTS
THE COMFORTABLE BLUE LOUNGE CHAIRS WERE SO POPULAR, BRING THEM BACK AGAIN
THE COMBO OF EXCELLENT VIEWS AND AMPLE SHADE MADE THIS AREA GOOD FOR PASSIVE USES
2014 POP-UP FOCUS AREAS PARK USE OBSERVATIONS CITY HALL
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR NEXT YEAR The design teamâ€™s recommendations for the next phase are built upon our study of the initial pop-up park. The recommendations below can be categorized as Improvement Priority (^), or Testing Priority (*). Improvement Priorities will provide needed amenities, incrementally build on durable park improvements, support the growing RPP community, and carry enthusiasm for the park forward. Testing Priorities will help the design team gain knowledge about items that have not yet been explored, such as: Can the park attract more PATCO riders? Is this a place that will be popular with kids and families?
1. Re-arrange the totes from the “Tote Veranda” into a new creative structure
on the plaza. The landmark should provide a place to gather and support for programming, events, and vendors. This may include a covered area, electrical hookups, or storage. *^
2. The “Planter Grove” can remain as-is through the next iteration. The corrugated metal
planters, piano canopy, and tote planters are durable enough for at least another season. Nearly all the plants are perennials, so they will grow again next year and can be supplemented with limited annuals. The orange chairs and gray tables, along with the 70 lb. steel umbrella stands can simply be re-used, but the umbrellas should be replaced with a commercial-grade and wind-resistant version. ^
3. Provide lightweight movable chairs, and support passive uses in the
northeast lawn panel. Twenty-four blue Adirondacks were provided in 2014, and they were one of the most popular elements of the pop-up. Consider doubling this number for the next round. ^
of postcard respondents loved that RPP was a great place to sit and relax
Even though RPP is less than 50 feet away from Camden’s central City Hall PATCO high speed line station (which averages 1,000 weekday riders),
of park users arrived by PATCO.*
4. Enhance the sense of arrival at 5th and Market Streets, and make the park more welcoming to Patco users.
5. Improve the Market Street
edge with durable improvements,
focusing on outdoor dining. Distribute these improvements using the principle of “triangulation” to make a bigger impact. *^
6. Provide engaging and/or interactive elements, including at least
one instrument (as the piano was a huge success). Strive to include some playful, unexpected features that bring a sense of spectacle. Interactive public art can also greatly expand opportunities for engagement and an optimistic, welcoming atmosphere. *
7. Include some elements for kids and families, to test whether kids
and families can be attracted to the park with amenities specifically geared towards them. *
of all respondents (visitor surveys and postcards) suggested adding a playground and other kid-friendly activities
of all respondents (visitor surveys and postcards) suggested adding an interactive element, be it a water feature, vendors, programming or games.
“The most successful placemaking initiatives transcend the ‘place’ to forefront the ‘making.’” - Places in the Making 66
A PLACEMAKING FRAMEWORK FOR LONG-TERM IMPROVEMENTS Over a period of several months, we have observed patterns in the use of RPP that suggest the park could benefit in the long-term from the following development directions. By taking on incremental steps with each phase, the park will be better poised for permanently needed improvements, and can reap the fringe benefits of the iterative placemaking process. These directions should be tested through various iterations in the years to come. In each reporting phase, these observations should continue, providing valuable information that will contribute to the eventual full buildout of the park:
1. Study circulation and expand heavily used paths, specifically the path
that connects diagonally through the park from the intersection of 5th and Market Streets to City Hall.
2. Invest in infrastructural improvements like a drinking fountain, increased electrical capacity, storage space, and public restroom facilities.
3. Build a mature tree canopy with tree plantings each year. A long-term park plan will help to direct this effort.
4. Maintain an open lawn space for a variety of passive and active uses. 5. Integrate the plaza at the steps of City Hall with Roosevelt Plaza
Park. Remove barriers between the two spaces, creating a unified Plaza Park with diverse zones of uses.
6. Placemaking is a process. Take each step in the development of the park
as an opportunity to involve the community in the virtuous cycle of placemaking. The placemaking process strengthens community ties to the space, gives stakeholders an opportunity to be involved, and helps the park to remain flexible and relevant. Programming should become an expected part of the daily life of the park starting next year.
TIPS FOR AN EFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION Seeing park amenities literally â€œpop-upâ€? in an existing park over a matter of a few days is an exciting thing to witness. Many of our survey respondents said they first found out about RPP because they saw it being built. But, implementing a park in such a short time does come with its own set of challenges. In the short timeline and limited scope of a pop-up park, setbacks and trade-offs could make a big impact on the vision of the project. Making compromises to the benefit of the overall project will become an imperative part of the process; communication and flexibility from team members will help to make the project a success.
1. Be realistic with the scope and budget. In order to help achieve this, hold a 20% implementation budget contingency. Hold the contingency all the way through the installation. If the contingency is still available a quarter of the way through the duration of the pop-up, use the extra funds to add value to the project: add another element, buy another type of furniture, replace anything sub-par, fund a survey, hold an event, hire a jazz band, add seasonal flowers, or print an informational pamphlet. 2. Involve a contractor as part of the design team. Implementing a pop-up is similar to the ‘design-build’ process. So, construction considerations should be incorporated from the very beginning. The contractor will attend design meetings and help identify how custom elements will be made. They will provide the essential oddjobs services through the installation, in turn helping to keep the budget on-track and realistic. 3. Put together the right team and
get the right equipment for the job. Understanding the skill sets of your
installation team members (both hired and volunteer) will help you understand where the gaps are. Be sure those who are providing you labor have the appropriate equipment and support. Check ahead of time with the
foreman or manager of each crew to be sure that what you expect to be done is appropriate. Don’t expect to save on the important installation costs, just put a line for them in the budget. Account for needed equipment rentals, such as a truck with a lift gate, loaders, dollies, or lifts. 4. Ask for favors that add value. Be creative. Be resourceful. Share the excitement of the pop-up with colleagues and friends. For those who want to help, find avenues of involvement that are straight-forward and don’t require a lot of coordination. Favors can become ‘The Icing on the Cake’ and help the project go above and beyond. Some infrastructural elements would be difficult to achieve within a pop-up budget and timeline (electrical hookups, for example) if they were not provided as a favor or as an ‘in-kind’ service. 5. Don’t count on favors for key activities. If the project timeline or a major element of the install depends on it, task it to someone who can be held responsible for it. In the short installation timeline associated with a pop-up, even small setbacks can throw off a bigger sequence – causing delays and unexpected costs. Core improvements, on which the rest of the pop-up is based, should be installed and overseen by a member of the core team.
6. Set a mandatory kick-off meeting. About a week prior to the pop-up installation, hold a mandatory construction kick-off meeting that includes all the parties involved in core installation activities: the design team, the client representative, the project contractor, any hired crew managers, and any volunteer crew managers. By the time of this meeting, very few elements should be up in the air. Distribute layout plans, review installation tasks line-by-line, provide images of mock-ups, look at color samples, sign off on plant selection, confirm budget numbers, and circulate a project contact sheet. 7. Experiment! (but not with everything). Be sure there are some elements that are sure-fire. Use items you are familiar with that are sure to perform as you expect them to. However, the pop-up should not just resemble a temporary public space. It should be special because it is temporary, it should be an opportunity to experiment.
REFERENCES Project for Public Spaces. “Placemaking 101.” pps.org. 2014. Silerberg, Susan. Places in the Making: How Placemaking Builds Places and Communities. MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 2013. Whyte, William H. The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. New York. The Project for Public Spaces, 1980.
â€œTo see this park utilized by the people, that is a great step for Camden. This without question is spiritually lifting.â€? - Kobie H. Mack Sr. (as quoted in a New York Times article about Camden)