Bark & Brew Arlington Talks Placemaking
Arlington, Tx is known to many as the largest city without a public transportation system. Nestled between Dallas and Fort Worth, it's a diverse community with a strong entertainment economy. Dallas Cowboys Stadium, Rangers Stadium , Six Flags Over Texas and Wet & Wild Theme Parks are all regional entertainment magnets. At its center, University of Texas at Arlington is quickly growing to attain Tier 1 Research University status. Just a few blocks away, the old historic downtown is undergoing a massive redevelopment with millions in public infrastructure investment, and a growing number of restaurants ad bars - including TWO micro breweries!
Yet decades of inattention to pedestrian amenities and the public realm in general have created a disbursed, multi-node downtown that lacks the coherence of a 'District'.
Partnering with the Downtown Arlington Management Corp, we designed this project to demonstrate the value of temporary placemaking as well as to begin a public conversation about projects and placement, training participants to 'see' opportunities where they, themselves, could make small improvements.
We planned to attract participants with beer and encourage engagement by addressing a newly developed need of downtown residents: a dog park.
We discovered that the regulatory barriers to event programming on vacant land and use of vacant buildings would necessitate a longer-term strategy to allow popup activities. We therefore scheduled the event at a brewery. The property owner next door happened to be planning redevelopment and agreed to allow dogs to be off-leash within the fencing.
We found a simple design to build a few wooden benches, gathered our community sponsors and set to work. Thanks to the men at CenterSpace Coworking for their brute strength, construction skills, and handy work building and painting 4 sturdy benches!
When our initial date in early April was rescheduled (due to unseasonably freezing weather!) we decided to host our outreach event at the East Main Arts Festival. We gathered input from almost 100 participants, watched dogs make new friends in the popup dog park, drank lemonade, played with chalk on the driveway, and schemed about where to build a 'forever' dog park downtown.
At the end of the day, our 16 PopUp Placemaking project ideas were raked with 371 votes. Six PopUp Placemaking projects garnered 62% of the votes:
Plazas and Gathering Spaces (49)
Native Flowers at Intersections (39)
Vacant Building PopUps (38)
Plant More Trees (36)
Creative Crosswalks (34)
Interactive Art (33)
More than 34 households and 64 individuals in the workforce participated in sharing where they live and work. Of those, 44% lived within 1 mile of Downtown and 63% work within a mile of Downtown.
We collected email addresses from 36 locals interested in being actively engaged with volunteering or working on popup initiatives, 4 of which were interested in working with the DAMC to establish a permanent dog park in Downtown.
Although temporary placemaking may not make a big showing on a regular basis anytime soon (at least until the Special Events regulations are reworked), the DAMC staff are already working to implement the simple, more permanent placemaking ideas the Downtown Arlington community wants to help implement!