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!

Connect

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

Amenities

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!

 

April PNA Meeting

Commitment Cards to Improve the Point!

Commitment Cards to Improve the Point!

The April Neighborhood meeting was a collaboration between the Point Neighborhood Association, the North Shore Community Development Coalition, and multiple local organizations, institutions, and citizens to commit to improving the neighborhood by taking concrete steps to implement the Point Neighborhood Visioning Plan, completed last year.

Some precise accomplishments and next steps discussed include:

  • The Point will be on the National Register for Historic Places
  • Enhance the existing four parks in the neighborhood
  • The grant towards a splash pad – an interactive water play fountain – was announced. It will be located in Mary Jane Lee Park.
  • Employ park ambassadors to enrich the park aesthetics and experience for residents
  • Community gardens to stimulate, foster, and enhance stewardship
  • Enhance the diversity and quantity of affordable housing
  • An analysis of Shetland Park Businesses
  • More bilingual workshops at the NSCDC
  • Work to devise strategies for improving business opportunities along the two main corridors: Congress and Lafayette Streets
  • Celebrate the history of the neighborhood

Of the attendees, it seems like about half were Point residents, while the others were interested parties representing institutions and organizations. Bringing these great ideas, initiatives, and discussions to more residents remains a significant step to take. There are a lot opportunities for creative engagement in the community from the business and entrepreneurial to the artistic – get in touch if you want to be part of any of these endeavors!

ReImagine A Lot! Week 4

I Imagine info poster_Week 04_Page_1

This Friday marks four weeks of building at the Palmer Street Lot – same time, same place, every week. Our actions slowly become a Friday afternoon habit as the physical form of the community wall takes shape. Many have helped out, either with the support of materials or with the support of their time and hands: building, painting, digging. This help has come from all ages, often unsolicited from people as they walk by the project, curious as to what it will be, with a desire to help create. Lessons and stories abound. One neighborhood girl told me of how she stopped a couple young boys from playing target practice with the wall, since after all, she helped paint it. My heart fluttered at this evidence of her taking ownership of the project. I am amazed that people want to help without even fully realizing what the “final product” will be; especially enthusiastic are the small children who have unbounded desire and energy to help create something tangible. I Imagine info poster_Week 04_Page_2

While the final product will prompt residents to “imagine what this lot could be” in the future, this work has already transformed what the empty lot currently is. During the summer, I lamented the lot’s wasted state, particularly since it is located across from the much used Mary Jane Lee Park. The lot lay useless, and in stark contrast to the park’s bustling activity. Now, it is no longer fallow ground, the site of a demolition, and bits of trash. The use value is exponential, and for now, the lot operates at full potential. I Imagine info poster_Week 04_Page_3
I Imagine info poster_Week 04_Page_4

Week 4 at the Palmer Street Lot, saw much progress: the NSCDC Youth Build team, nine strong, helped out: they applied the orange chalkboard paint on the front 48 foot wall, they began making the stencils to prompt community participation, and they installed the back panels that will soon be transformed into a community mural. Neighborhood children helped paint the tree trunk chairs, and were inspired by Jackson Pollack in painting the future community bulletin board. This week, we also hosted the first event at the lot: The Point Neighborhood Association meeting (more on that later); for now, scroll down and see some of the photos as the Point ReImagines what this Lot can be: I Imagine info poster_Week 04_Page_5 I Imagine info poster_Week 04_Page_6 I Imagine info poster_Week 04_Page_7