This is part 2 of 5 posts documenting the Community Engagement Process for a new public space at 289 Derby. The City of Salem, Salem Public Space Project and Creative Salem welcome the community to participate in an exciting and innovative approach to placemaking. After a public process, CBA Landscape Architects of Cambridge became the primary designers with Salem Public Space Project and Creative Salem working as local leaders tasked with managing the community engagement / schematic design for the parcel.
On May 31, dozens of people representing 22 local organizations gathered at 289 Derby for a deeper discussion for what this new waterfront public space should be. We sat and stood around a very large table and discussed the priorities of each person through the lens of their organization, or group they felt they represented, such as neighborhood associations, young families, or the nearby Derby Lofts.
This was our second Community Design Meeting, and like with the first, we mainly listened. A lot was said! The collective priorities and values were pretty clear, and align well with what we heard in week 1:
- Accessible to all people, abilities, ages, ethnicities
- Multi-use / multi-programming / community gathering for all seasons
- Green Space
- Connections to water and Peabody St Park / The Point
After Dance&Design at 289 Derby, the favorite idea was a “botanical garden with open space for education, music, and dance.” Ultimately, this statement, which received a majority votes in our Week 1 online and on-site surveys, speaks primarily to the desire for an engaging green space integrated with space for programmed, communal gathering.
The need for this 1 acre spot of land to serve many needs, and still function as a beautiful space with a clear identity continued during our second Community Design Event: Meet&Share.
A lot of the comments and desires were ultimately for spaces and elements that have multiple uses and appeal to multiple people of all ages, ethnicities, and abilities.
For instance, some participants did not want another playground. However, many supported integrating an engaging sculpture that could be climbed by kids as well as start conversations with adults as a desirable design solution to multiple competing interests.
Many expressed desires to connect – by continuing the Harborwalk around the South River, by connecting across the river to Peabody Street Park, and The Point neighborhood, by opening up access to the water, and by designing elements to facilitate social interactions.
Gather in the Green
We became more specific about what sort of green space and what types of gatherings could happen at 289 Derby.
Participants expressed a desire for resilient and sustainable vegetation that could even involve permaculture including passive food producing plants. We discussed maintenance and somehow getting local support to steward the space. Perhaps this could double with a vertical garden for pollinators, or a green buffer to mitigate the gasoline smell on the west side of the lot, or to buffer against the noise from Derby Street on the north. In fact, the green buffer could perhaps help dampen the noise on site too since people want a space for quiet contemplation.
Many were drawn to the image of a labyrinth that integrates paving with greenery. In fact, this image represents the desire of many to integrate nature with community gathering: “Plants mixed in with sculptural elements” and “Greenspace interspersed with gathering space.” The circular flat space of a labyrinth could help facilitate different activities: a place for quiet walking meditation, a focal point for an amphitheater for theatre or music, a space to lead a yoga class, and a small ice-skating rink in the winter.
Gathering in a beautiful space with green on one side and the water on the other is how many participants want to exercise, especially important for people of all ages.
Gather on the Blue
Most participants expressed a desire to connect to the water, through an actual kayak and paddleboard launch, or by having a beautiful fence from which to lean and peer out.
A Place for Games, Performance, and Learning
Most participants also want a space for backyard type games, outdoor spaces for learning and gathering, and performances that aren’t too loud. The noise factor was one area of disagreement. Many expressed a desire for seeing music and performances with the water as backdrop, while others are concerned with the noise.
A Place for Contemplation, Art, and Conversation
Many participants expressed a desire for an urban oasis of green where they can rejuvenate since Derby Street lacks green up to the Maritime Center. People would like to contemplate nature, perhaps understand native plants or how a rain garden works. Many suggested using art as a way to start conversations. One participant thought having permanent questions could stimulate discussions – indeed the simple chalkboard wall on site has done just that for a couple weeks!
Some participants reached across the river and suggested that art can improve the look of the National Grid station by weaving through the fence, or painting a mural, or using artful light.
Thoughtful and creative lighting was a big item! As was having a water-bottle filling station and other amenities such as an on-site calendar of events and a solar-powered phone charging station.
Overall, the desire for some kind of green integrated with many types of gathering spaces and activities predominates.
For our 3rd event – Play&Plan we will show three design options derived from what has been learned so far from our first two meetings, our chalkboard wall, and online surveys – Join us at 289 Derby from 5-8pm on June 7 for Yoga, play with B&S Fitness and Project Adventure, music play with Barbara Maitland! All are welcome!