Eat&Imagine at 289 Derby!

all photos by Creative Salem

For our fourth Community Design Event, Eat & Imagine at 289 Derby, our goal was simple: involve everyone in choosing between two design schemes with Placemaking Placemats before enjoying some spontaneous eats on site.

Option A and Option B show these community driven designs by CBA Landscape Architects

The varied activities people have envisioned for the space, from native permaculture gardens to winter ice-skating, would be possible in either configuration designed by CBA Landscape Architects. The simple distinction between the two plans is that one scheme is straight, and the other curvy. We thought we’d have some debate and close calls about which way to go, so we created “Consensus” placemats at each table. They were unnecessary! At a ratio of 8 to 10, the “curvy” plan was the clear favorite!

Compilation of votes, notes, and locations from community input by SalemPublicSpaceProject

There were many reasons for this. The primary factor was that it would be a unique form in Salem and people were attracted to the soft edges. The undulating paved space shows two discrete areas for flexible activities – one in the center of the space surrounded by greenery, and the other closer to the water with amphitheater-like integrated seating and a stage area that can double as a labyrinth for walking meditation during the summer, and even and ice-skating rink in the winter.

The green space is similarly well suited to facilitate the multiple types of green space desired by participants: botanical gardens with plants for pollinators and native species in some areas, and lawn space with shade and seating in other zones.

Together, these discrete elements facilitate layered uses to incorporate a surprising amount of the community suggestions we’ve gathered over the past five weeks of engagement.

A big thank you to Bambolina for the delicious menu!

Through the “Placemaking Placemats” we all participated in a design charrette. We collected 88 in total! Check out some of the votes on favorite Amenities and Activities – as well corresponding locations!

A big thank you to Salem GreenSpace and the YMCA for talking urban agriculture, permaculture, and community – and giving out tomato seedlings!!

Design Trivia! The name for a gathering of people under pressure to design together, usually in an academic setting, is called a “Design Charette.” Charette is the French word for cart. Traditionally, fervent design students were said to still be finishing their drawings on the cart (charrette) as it was rolled down the hall to be reviewed.

Now that we have a direction for both form and program, we still have a lot of work to do! Who will be those critical community partners to steward this space in a way that keeps it safe, clean, and inclusive to all?

Creative Salem has compiled a wonderful narrative of the past 4 weeks – take a look and come see the schematic design unveiling with us June 21 at 6pm!

Imagine 289 Derby from Creative Salem on Vimeo.

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

Meet&Share at 289 Derby

all photos by John Andrews, Creative Salem

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:

  1. Accessible to all people, abilities, ages, ethnicities
  2. Multi-use / multi-programming / community gathering for all seasons
  3. Green Space
  4. Connections to water and Peabody St Park / The Point
  5. Safe
  6. Maintainable

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.

Point Neighborhood Association: a place for community meetings and bridging across the water!


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.

Salem Historical Society: make it beautiful with a covered eating area and a micro – forest!

Derby Lofts: Green Space + Bridge over the Water











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.

Derby Lofts: Make it Green! Well lit, safe and pretty and quiet! – an Urbane Oasis!

Young families: gather + eat, gather +watch, perform or teach, traverse!











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.


SAFE (salem alliance for the environment): green space, botanical garden, access to water, performance space

Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs: eco-friendly, low-impact on environment – vertical gardens! mural on National Grid building!











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.


Integrate nature with seating, art, and events for all!

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.


Salem Main Streets: spaces that endure through the seasons


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!


Dance and Design at 289 Derby

Kylie Sullivan of Main Streets engages people at the information table – get your postcard! and Michael Jaros engages people walking by and gets them to participate

This is part 1 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.


We wrote down suggestions from the chalkboard wall and voted on the favorites!

Your Feedback

I was surprised that, from over 50 suggestions written on the chalkboard wall, the most popular by far was: “Botanical Garden with open space for education, music, dance.” As I talked to dozens of people over the course of the first Community Design Event, and later as I sifted through all the community input, the winning idea began to make sense: people generally want some variation of “gathering” in some sort of “green space.” What type of gathering and in what kind of green space is different for different people. The desire for multiple potential activities (reflecting plural communities) is exactly what is offered by a “Botanical Garden with open space for education, music, dance.” This suggestion implies that this would be an open space for a variety of activities, surrounded by greenery that is of greater interest, and perhaps meaning, than the standard grass-and-tree landscape.

For the first event, we requested feedback to understand the values, scope, and general feel of the public space people wanted most at 289 Derby. We used a variety of engagement tactics from on-site to on-line. Over 50 people provided trackable written feedback, and over 100 attended the event, while some wrote suggestions on the chalkboard in the days leading up to the event. The information gleaned below will serve as as we move forward with the design. You can access all the data by here.

Top Input from Week 1 of Community Design Engagement in the Placemaking of 289 Derby

A Brief History of 289 Derby

Late last year, the City of Salem bought what has been known as “The Carnival Lot.” The City Council was persuaded to vote in favor of purchasing the lot for a new public space by countless testimonies from nearby residents, restaurant owners, and even the Chief of Police who cited improved safety: more “eyes on the park” would result from a well-used public space. Creating a new, centrally located, and iconic public space is incredibly exciting. Even more exciting is the prospect of involving the multiple communities that make the actual design.

People wrote their answers on the Doors of Engagement

Our Design Process for 289 Derby

In typical park design, the larger community gets involved only after a couple plan options have already been developed with primary stakeholders. At 289 Derby, the process is turned on its head: we are outside and open to the boundless – sometimes silly, often thoughtful – suggestions of the myriad people walking on Derby Street.

Local dancers engage participants of all ages

Our first event – Dance & Design at 289 Derby – featured four local dance groups that danced and made music in different locations. First, kids danced with Thrance as adults watched; then everyone drummed in a circle right on the edge of the water and watched African dancing; we then watched Sarah Slifer Swift engage the entire space through bold movements; we finally ended with a fun and frenzied Scottish jig.

We were so happy to showcase talented local artists engaging people in dance across ages and genres: Thrance, Greg Coles Dance and Drum, Sarah Slifer Swift, and the Scottish Dancers around Salem since 1974! Their participation strongly suggests their desire to help produce spaces for community and creativity – they all agreed to participate with short notice and a bare-bones infrastructure. Each performance transformed the space. They helped us imagine. At the end of the evening, we unanimously voted for a dance and performance space right on the water.

Images of other public spaces to stimulate your imagination

While some people danced, many more watched. The seemingly small infill plot of land seemed much larger when people walked around its extents. On two occasions we counted over 65 people, but we aren’t entirely sure how many came. We wanted to provide an opportunity for people to come for five minutes or stay for a couple hours; we wanted them to engage on their own terms, in their own way. We collected postcards, votes on favorite images and chalkboard suggestions, and provided input on the “Doors of Engagement.”

A spontaneous paddle-boarder just as someone said – “You can’t paddle-board there!” and many people gather under the shade of the lone tree to chat.

During the event, Clara Batchelor and DJ Chagnon of CBA Landscape Architects noticed that “The most common adjectives that came across from talking to people looking at precedent pictures for the space at 289 Derby were shade, soft, and green. People often pointed to pictures and said, “I like the trees.” or “I like the shade (from the tree).” Many people also liked pictures of lawn or pictures that had areas that were densely planted.” People’s actions seemed to align with these comments: before the dancing began, most people gathered on the north-west corner under the shade cast by a sidewalk tree. The space is surrounded by mainly concrete. Generally, people rested or walked along the edges, staying away from the broad, shadeless middle. Kids fully took over the stumps arranged in circles and semicircles showing that for the young, a playground is much more expansive than the typical plastic stock.

289 Derby from across the South River during high tide on Saturday May 27th as volunteers paint more stumps for seating.

If you came to the event, or even happened to see 289 Derby, you will notice that it has already been a little transformed. We transformed the lot through temporary means with the help of numerous people over the course of 10 frenzied days. Read on for a short description of what it took!

Public Art Planner Deborah Greel helped us get the Mural Slam 2016 artworks from Artists’ Row to the lot: it was a synchronistic moment since they needed to come down and make way for Mural Slam 2017 happening June 3-4 for this year’s Salem Arts Festival. Tim Clarke, who owns the masonry building adjacent to the lot organized for his crew to put up the mural panels. Waters and Brown donated paint and helped in myriad ways. The City of Salem leveled the lot, brought in almost 40 stumps harvested from dying trees, brought in tables and chairs, and so much more. The kids from Plummer Youth Promise helped paint the stumps, doors, and chalkboard stencils. Tim Haigh of Bambolina helped erect our two engagement walls. A community member dropped off more paint. The Electrical Department hooked up the electricity for music, and helped upcycle the pinwheels from last year’s Move With Me community art project. Just an hour before the event, Jason Rice of Zybodrone wandered onto the lot as we were setting up and asked if he could film the event with his drone, which he did! A family with their kids came to paint the remaining stumps. We have met so many people during the site preparations. This sort of spontaneous interactions are critical to including people in the planning of 289 Derby, and generally opening up the planning process.

With almost 50 responses to our space survey online and on-site, and over a hundred people coming out for the first event, we are so grateful to everyone who participated! Meet&Share at 289 Derby, from 5-7pm on Wedensday May 31 will feature a round-table discussion of all the input from the first event and the priorities of local residents, restaurants, and organizations. Please join!

TidalShift: Plastic in our Oceans…?

The thought of a school of jellyfish flying above your head as you walk down the street may seem strange, surreal… simply not right.

If we suspend what we already know about trash in oceans, we would think it equally bizarre for a bunch of disparate plastic items from grocery bags to bendy straws to surf on waves and populate our waters.

But we know that “275 million metric tons (MT) of plastic waste was generated in 192 coastal countries in 2010, with 4.8 to 12.7 million MT entering the ocean.” So perhaps a school of flying jellyfish among the summer foliage isn’t so odd…?

For this year’s Salem Arts Festival, we are creating hundreds of jellyfish from used plastic bags because….

…. sea turtles and other marine life regularly mistake plastic bags for their food, including jellyfish!

… Salem has adopted plastic bag reduction legislation that will take effect on January 1, 2018 and we want to spread the word about its significance! Perhaps the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts can join in the clean-up effort!

Salem Public Space Project has partnered with Salem Sound Coast Watch and From the Bow Seat to use art to communicate the need for this shift from convenience to caring. Since last November we have been creating jellyfish across Salem in schools, museums, cafes, and our studio at 10 Derby Square.

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In the ocean, jellyfish are fascinating creatures animated through their hypnotic movement, as observed at the New England Aquarium. On May 31 we will install a canopy of jellyfish over Front Street. How will these plastic-bag jellyfish move in the breeze? What will they communicate? A Tidal Shift?

Join one of our workshops to make USED plastic-bag jellyfish and let’s brainstorm how we can help spread the reduction of plastic use so that plastic in our oceans won’t grow! 

Extended – Call for Writers

Salem Public Space Cards: an artful gaze onto our shared public spaces.

Over a dozen local photographers have chosen and photographed a public space meaningful to them. What will their image inspire you to write about a place that you know or discover in your own way?

Cards will feature a public space photo and a poem/ written reflection inspired by the photo on the other. To be launched and for sale at the Salem Arts Festival, 2017. The Public Space Cards will be packaged with a map of all locations. All proceeds will go towards recovering production cost and then divided equally among participants. (Cost TBD)