Play&Plan at 289 Derby

all photos by Creative Salem

Our first two Community Design Events focused primarily on listening to the many communities and individuals that came to participate in creating a new water front public space at 289 Derby Street in Downtown Salem. The big take-aways were that people wanted a variety of activities that could be done on a well-maintained resilient green space, and on paved surfaces that would facilitate a connection to the water, to our artist-led creative community, and to each other across the seasons.

Through the chalkboard suggestion wall, online surveys, and participatory meetings, Salem Public Space Project categorized these varied, often complementary desires.

This is a lot of information from a lot of people – but the categories show complementary uses!

CBA Landscape Architects created five plan options that would facilitate many of these activities. At this stage in the design, these are containers for what may be, and don’t yet contain all the possible activities. The goal for Play&Plan was to focus in on two plans. Likely, these will be a combination of elements from the five shown.

PLAN A shows a path as a flexible activity space that leads from Derby St to a potential bridge to Peabody Street Park across the South River with green buffers on either side. The activities we’ve had on site show that the space is actually quite larger than it appeared when it was a parking lot, so breaking up the space still allows plenty of activity space.

PLAN B shows a path to the water as a series of varied spaces that culminate in a performance area with green buffers on either side.

Many of the plans show seating along the masonry building that will likely transform in the future to be more transparent with glass instead of brick at the bays. On the edge with the gas station, many of the plans represent the desired green buffer. Another similarity is the open area along the water for performance or participatory classes from yoga to ice-skating in winter. The middle then shows a spectrum of grass and paving combinations that all allow for flexible uses in different ways. These forms, or containers of activities, will receive another layer of complexity for our next meeting at Eat&Imagine.

PLAN C is inspired by the curvilenear image popular with participants over the weeks. The plan shows a path to the water as a series of varied spaces that culminate in a performance area with green buffers on either side of both shaded lawn and demonstration garden areas. This was one of the most popular plans shown due to the curves!

PLAN D is inspired by a historic “Wharfscape Theme” park. The scheme shows a central lawn with perimeter walks, including a trellis to act as a visual buffer to the gas-station.

PLAN E shows a connection to the water through two discrete, yet connected spaces for flexible uses, including performances – one centrally located, and the other at the water’s edge. The green buffers and embraces the spaces, and a series of seating blocks, inspired by the placemaking stump seats, traverse from green to paving. This was also a popular plan and may be well combined with the curvilenear version.

Since our current budget for the construction is 750K (a state grant), we hope to set down a very strong and durable design that will facilitate a variety of uses and people. Some elements shown, perhaps the seating blocks, perhaps a decorative fence, or the “demonstration gardens” can perhaps be collaboratively created by local communities! One of the questions last week was in fact: which community groups should we involve? The list is a good beginning. Perhaps the Lorax Task Force can help with some trees! Perhaps the Salem Arts Association can create imaginative labels with drawings of particular plants in the demonstration gardens! Our imagination is our only limit! (Well, and funding…)

Community Groups to get involved with 289 Derby before and after design:

  • Espacio (Point Neighborhood Community Center)
  • Creative Salem
  • Salem Arts Association
  • Lorax
  • Neighborhood Associations
  • LEAP
  • Public Schools / Charter Schools – Service Learning Projects
  • Honors Programs that need service hours
  • Boy Scouts / Girl Scouts
  • Boys&Girls Club
  • YMCA

But, for now we move forward in earnest attempt to infuse this design with as many complementary community desires as possible! And the ideas keep flowing in! Just yesterday, an idea for a sculptural piece for the blind was suggested. The notion dovetails beautifully with others wanting an arresting sculpture that could be used for seating, for climbing on be kids, and as a conversation starter! In this way, we can imaginatively create an element that serves many communities and needs.

There is so much to say about the “Plan” part of Play&Plan – but on to the Play!

Rachel and Jemma of One Heart Infinite Pulses led a beautiful yoga class right on the water’s edge with percussive sounds by Denis Monagle with yoga mats from YMCA

B&S Fitness provided fun back-yard games that were in play throughout the event by people of all ages.

Project Adventure challenged participants in collaborative games from a balancing beam to a walking by consensus.

Family Music with Barbara Maitland

Barbara Maitland led a group in collaborative music after while others investigated and conversed about the plans up on the brick wall.

When we least expected it, the runners that meet at Notch added a loop to their regular Wednesday run!

Collaboration, not competition, was the underlying theme of Play&Plan, and so we will strive for our collaborative 289 Derby plan moving forward… Join us for the VERY important (and fun!) Eat&Imagine on Wednesday, June 14th. We will begin at 6 and go a bit later since we’ll be showing some Salem Shorts at the end of the event! People called for an outdoor cinema experience, and we are very glad to oblige! Also thankful to Waters and Brown and the Salem Film Festival for helping to make that happen!

  • 6pm – Input with Placemaking Placemats: your ticket to good design… and Food!
  • 7pm – Food from “The Smoker!” with Bambolina
  • 7:30pm – YMCA outdoor classroom featuring GreenSpace and Seedlings!
  • 8pm – Salem Movie Shorts from the Salem Film Festival
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