9 Ways to Initiate Tactical Urbanism in Your Community

9 Apr

At our April Downtown Institute, Manageable Design Techniques, Kristin Cypher of Britina Design Group gave a presentation on tactical urbanism ideas that can easily be replicated in any community!

Tactical urbanism is the concept of using inexpensive, temporary and often playful projects to spark excitement in the places we live. The best tactical urbanism projects will identify an ongoing issue in your city and empower citizens to come up with solutions–they can activate underused spaces, beautify ordinary objects, and inspire change. Here are some ideas that we encourage you to try out in your community!

 Activate underutilized spaces

  • Pop-up shops: Give a group of local artists an empty store space for a few days to sell their pieces or work with a curator to pull pieces from a local museum and set up a temporary exhibit! This is a great way to encourage foot traffic and help small businesses gain new customers.
  • Food carts and street fairs: Turn an unused parking lot into a dynamic gathering place by introducing something everybody loves – food! Add games like mini-golf for added fun.
  • PARK(ing) Day: Transform a metered parking space into a tiny public park for a day. PARK(ing) Day 2014 is Friday, September 19th.

Beautify the mundane

  • Yarn-bomb: This idea takes something generally utilitarian like a simple bike rack or lamp post and turns it into an art piece by knitting or crocheting designs onto it. (See this in action in Greeley, CO!)
  • Creative crosswalks: Earlier this year, Trinidad held a contest for residents to submit heart-inspired designs to paint between the crosswalks of the Corazon de Trinidad Creative District. 
  • Customized signage: Encourage people to walk around and explore your community by posting signs with estimated walking times to different places of interest. You can find templates online, or create your own from scratch.

Create a playful atmosphere

  • Light strings: These are an inexpensive way to add romance to a park, or combine with movie night for added ambiance.
  • Eye-catching storefront installations: Even if it doesn’t have a specific purpose, beautifying empty storefronts will get people talking about more permanent possibilities.
  • Bus stop activities: Since people already gather at bus stops, this is a great opportunity to engage them. Donate games for public use, or install a swing.

To brainstorm your own ideas, use the accompanying worksheet, “My Tactical Urbanism Plan” available with the full presentation (link below). Another great resource is Street Plan Collaborative’s Tactical Urbanism: Short-term action, Long-term Change.  

Finally, if you like the idea of tactical urbanism but aren’t sure what would work best in your community, just ask! Starting a discussion for change is as easy as posting a chalkboard in an empty lot and posing the simple question: “What do YOU think should be here?” You’ll likely be amazed and inspired by the responses.

To see these examples in detail, view the full presentation, Tactical Urbanism: Grass-Roots Community Change on our website.

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