Experimenting with Public Spaces

Posted

140 West Franklin Plaza

 

As part of the Town’s Downtown 2020 Work Plan, the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership and the Town of Chapel Hill are partnering to test drive some ideas for activating the public space at 140 West Franklin.  This test will take place on

Friday, September 30 - Sunday, October 2.  Come down and check it out and let us know what you think!  Tweet us your thoughts using #chapelhillplaces. 

#Chapelhillplaces:  140 West Activation Experiment

The Public Open Space at 140 West Franklin Street

September 30th – October 2nd, 9am-5pm

Project Description

The Plan: Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper

Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper (LQC) is a low-cost, high-impact strategy for transforming public spaces, neighborhoods, and cities across the globe. Using the LQC placemaking model, we will test-drive interventions in the space over the period of three days. Between Friday September 30th and Sunday October 2nd we will transform the open space at 140 West through the temporary installation of seating, vegetation, and wayfinding and signage, amongst other things. Installations will work around, and compliment, existing commercial activity and Town programming at 140 West.

The Goal: Adding to our Planning Toolkit

We believe that the success of our downtown relies on using both traditional long range planning techniques, as well as the lighter, quicker, cheaper model, in order to gain a holistic understanding of our environment.  Chapel Hill has a long history as an innovative center for planning and development techniques. In running this experiment we aim to add a dynamic method of data collection and analysis to our planning toolkit. A temporary installation at 140 West is an opportunity to gather data about human use, experience, and perception of the space. A combination of quantitative and qualitative data collection techniques will be used to measure how short-term improvements to the physical environment influence human behavior. Once we have the data about what works, and what people want, we can begin to plan for more long term interventions.

What You Can Expect

  • Colorful chairs, table, umbrellas, and grass in the center of the plaza
  • Plants and flowers along the edges of the plaza and the arcade
  • Colorful DIY benches in the shade
  • Internet access and charging stations to create a tech-friendly study and work space
  • Improved signage and wayfinding to make it clear that the space is open to the public, and to provide directions to nearby retail and restaurants
  • Local food carts offering ice-cream and coffee, to complement existing food outlets at 140 West
  • Volunteers on site to collect data and talk to community

Background

The Public Space

The open space at 140 West Franklin Street is a 26,000 square foot privately owned public space (POPS) designed to function as a hub of activity in Downtown Chapel Hill. Completed in 2013, the space forms part of a mixed use residential/retail development built as a result of a collaboration between the Town of Chapel Hill and the RAM Development Company. The Town currently manages a number of successful programming events in the space, funded by the development company. However, funding for programming is expected to run out in 2017, and the plaza is largely underutilized outside of event hours. Intervention is therefore needed if the 140 West plaza is to become a vibrant and inviting open space, year round.

The Research

In the spring of 2016, a group of graduate students out of the Department of City and Regional Planning at UNC-CH conducted an environmental design analysis of the space in order to understand current use patterns, and to make recommendations for interventions that would increase activation. The report - ‘Just Passing Through: Activating 140 West Franklin through Environmental Design’ - found that the space functions primarily as a thoroughfare, with very few elements attracting people to the space and encouraging them to stay. This project is the first step in implementing the recommendations made by the DCRP team, with the goal of activating the open space at 140 West.

We hope to see you there!