A Rare Public Space Opportunity in Salem

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The Carnival Lot from across the South River – taken October 24, 2016 – in hyperactivity two weeks each year.

The Salem City Council has some important Public Space business on the Agenda for tonight’s meeting (10/25 @ 7pm): 289 Derby Street (aka The Carnival Lot) could become one of the newest and most exciting Public Spaces in town.

The Carnival Lot is named for the two weeks in October that it is used as a carnival – like right now! The otherwise empty parcel  is the most significant Public Space Opportunity for the City of Salem in years. The $1.4 million acquisition of the lot appears affordable as a bond order and an annual payment through the Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding, roughly at 12.5% of the total CPA yearly capacity.

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View from Congress Street bridge shows the possibility to activate both the Harbor Walk and the South River.

As a city, we have the opportunity to create a vital public space in the center of town that connects to so many community desires that I could write a list longer than you’d care to read. Here are 7 main points:

  • The Carnival Lot is a unique space in the city that can be a gathering space at the intersection of downtown, a thriving commercial corridor, the Point neighborhood, part of the Harbor Walk, and waterside access, all within a dense urban context.
  • Unlike any other public space in Salem, the proportion of the space creates an ideal outdoor room. Up the road, Derby Square functions as our historic “living room.” The Carnival Lot is also defined by masonry buildings on two sides, but has the bustling activity of Derby Street at one pedestrian entrance, and the South River on the other to create the feel of a true urban “front porch” with unique uses, such as “Seaside Cinema” perhaps?
  • The Carnival Lot is a crucial anchor space to facilitate the realization of the South River Harbor Walk as a complete loop that connects across neighborhoods and offers a unique connection to a waterway in the middle of our city. Without this space, the walkway will lack a space for gathering that will create a place, rather than only a walk.
  • The lot offers a unique connection to the South River that symbolically (and perhaps literally!) can bridge across to one of our most dynamic and undervalued neighborhood, The Point.
  • The lot as a public space can connect for water activities on the currently underused South River.
  • The lot itself provides unique opportunities for pedestrian connections, much like the most endearing public spaces in the city from the Essex Street mall and the myriad alleys to the Ropes Mansion Garden to new trails (from rails), a unique pedestrian system of getting through the city enables the robust foot traffic that makes for active, safe, and useful spaces.
  • We have the opportunity to truly “Still Make History” by creating one of the most beautiful, exciting, and dynamic river walks in the state.

One of the most exciting aspects of acquiring The Carnival Lot is the potential for a genuine on-site, public process of what to do with it! Salem Public Space Project imagines great public gatherings exploring possibilities, experiments in the space with temporary notions, conversations about everyone’s ideas from stewardship and ecology to food-trucks and theater…. yes, we imagine and advocate an all-inclusive, all out, participatory process! That is our dream and hope for The Carnival Lot: both its process of becoming and the gathering space we create together will constitute a beautiful and forward thinking legacy of urban design and public space in Salem.

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Off Derby Street, the public space can be a “front porch” for the city connecting downtown to the South River.

From Flatbread to Notch, to new businesses across the street and river, the adjacent activity makes The Carnival Lot’s emptiness even more conspicuous. The alternative of an eventual built development (like condos, let’s say) would detract from the value of the location to the surrounding businesses, as well as the public. A novel, vital public space complements and adds real value to the existing and growing density.

Write your Councilor if you support the Public Space Opportunity and / or attend the meeting at City Hall, tomorrow October 25 at 7pm.

Get moving!!

Get moving!!

 

ENGAGE! at Boston’s Design Week

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ENGAGE is a series of short but powerful presentations by Boston area designers thinking, acting, and designing to…. engage!

Join if you’re in town! Free and open to the public 6pm in the BSA Space, 290 Congress Street.

SPSP is so happy to share some of our stories – we’re honored to be part of a great lineup!

Architecture for Humanity Boston
Artforming + Wentworth Institute of Technology – Center for Community + Learning Partnerships
Boston Architectural College – Gateway projects
CBA Landscape Architects
Klopfer Martin Design Group
MassArt – Community Build Studio
Rudy Bruner Design Award + Bruner Foundation
Salem Public Space Project
Sasaki Associates
Studio G Architects
Studio Luz Architects
Sustainability Guild International
Utile
Yayasan Kota Kita + Harvard GSD

Doreen gets a new sign!

Doreen and the new sign

The crazy thing about the new sign for “Friends of Mary Jane Lee Park” is that the lady who made the old one, eight years ago, recently passed away. The day I wanted to take the sign to Doreen, she was heading out to the memorial service. The following day, when I brought her the sign, Doreen told me of their former sign artist, and showed me all the scrapbooks that she had made. The new sign was timely – new beginnings in the fall.

Get to The Point at Heritage Days!

The Point Postcards danced in the breeze on Essex Street

The Point Postcards danced in the breeze on Essex Street

Sunday was an ideal day to sit on Salem’s pedestrian mall – Essex Street – and share stories and postcards from The Point Neighborhood. We set up our environment for storytelling, invited visitors to sit and write, but mostly we all stood and talked about Salem’s most misunderstood neighborhood. Point residents found their home on the large aerial, some shared new stories from the community, and Salem tourists took postcards to mail off a different view of witch city.

The set-up and us!

The set-up and us!

Postcards for the Taking!

Postcards for the Taking!

The day was filled with conversations!

We chatted with the pastor and members of Crossroads Church seeking to better know their adjacent neighborhood.

We chatted with the pastor and members of Crossroads Church seeking to better know their adjacent neighborhood.

Point residents added insight

Point residents added insight

 

Aspiring Councilwoman at Large Elaine Milo stopped by to talk

Aspiring Councilwoman at Large Elaine Milo stopped by to talk

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The Derby Square bookstore provided a great backdrop for our storytelling space!

The Derby Square bookstore provided a great backdrop for our storytelling space!

Our youngest viewer

Our youngest viewer

The sidewalk chalk finally comes out

The sidewalk chalk finally comes out

Conversations continued well into the afternoon

Conversations continued well into the afternoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Street Interrupted – evening view

Pedestrians taking the short-cut up dodge street

Pedestrians taking the short-cut up dodge street

A little down Dodge Street, the yellow line marks the spot and draws attention to the odd dead end that is in fact used by many pedestrians. Some comments plead for the path to be “plowed” and others use the chalk outside the box – this is inspiration for a much grander installation!

This desolate space could really be used for so much more!

This desolate space could really be used for so much more!

 

The hike up Dodge Street

The hike up Dodge Street

Fun with the rope connector

Fun with the rope connector

 

 

Street Interrupted

Street Interrupted at Dodge Street Court

Street Interrupted at Dodge Street Court

On my daily walk to the train station, my route includes two pedestrian only portions.

The second path follows the Salem tourist trail, a red painted line inspired by Boston’s Freedom Trail that leads me up Artists’ Row, around the Old Town Hall, and down Essex Street. Salem prides itself on its pedestrian friendly streets; many residents cite the city’s walkability as a significant factor as to why they live in Witch City.

The first pedestrian way I follow, however, is off the tourist circuit. It is a fragmented asphalt hill that connects Dodge Street to Washington Street. Impossible to traverse in the wrong footwear, it is a small short cut is taken by many. It is not a friendly pedestrian way – it is a Street Interrupted.

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The way up Dodge Street to Washington Street

Its significant use value for the many that do use it prompted a small project to inquire into how the path may better serve its users. We asked two simple questions to understand how people use the path, and how they would like to see it improved.

Prepping the Asphalt

Prepping the Asphalt

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Chalk and Prompts for Participation

Tree Trailblaze marks the Chalk & Prompts for Participation

The first comment!

The first comment!

The asphalt is a bit rough - next time we'll make bigger text! (stay tuned)

The asphalt is a bit rough – next time we’ll make bigger text! (stay tuned)

A yellow line attempts a connection - how would you connect Dodge Street?

A yellow line attempts a connection – how would you connect Dodge Street?