Westbrook Common and Placemaking
If you’ve been keeping tabs on what’s been going on in Westbrook, then you know that one of the newest and most exciting projects on the horizon in town is Westbrook Common! Keep reading to learn more about Westbrook Common, placemaking, and a little about what to expect from this great space!
What is Placemaking?
Placemaking is a concept that begin in the 1960s with innovators like Jane Jacobs and others who suggested that cities should be designed for people, not cars and shopping centers. Her work focused on creating lively neighborhoods and inviting urban spaces. (See Jane Jacob’s other inspired work through our annual Jane’s Walks blog posted on April 18)
Placemaking is creating a conversation and engaging the community to understand the space. The community knows how the public space will be most used and can share what is and what is not important in the design and implementation of a specific space.
Placemaking is not just the design of the space but how the space is used and programmed and the amenities that are available. It is inherently a group effort that involves the institutions and organizations that care deeply about the space, the surrounding businesses, and the community.
Placemaking evolves. It takes observation about how a space is used and what is working and what is not. There may be several iterations of programming and design adjustments that help make the space most amenable to the community.
Placemaking is in the works for Westbrook Common.
A Survey of the Community
To begin, Discover Downtown Westbrook gathered input from the community by launching a community survey. The Westbrook Common Survey yielded 290 responses! 90.7% of these responses came from Westbrook residents, and of those 263 people, 144 live within walking distance of the downtown area. Twenty-five people said they work in downtown Westbrook, and eight are business owners in town. The survey reached a wide swath of our community, but the majority (68%) fell within the 25 to 54 age brackets.
What Does the Community Want?
There were several themes identified in the survey; the most popular responses are summarized below.
Create a vibrant space
People want a vibrant public space to spend time passively (indicated by an interest in public art (68%), furniture (57%), and yard games (44%), and most responses indicated socializing (83%) and eating (81%) as desirable activities). In the survey, respondents requested, “If possible, strings of lights going to/from the buildings on both sides of the common would be festive. Like an outdoor cafe/market.” Others “would love to see some tables or seating to drink coffee” or a “…meditation area, open mic, reading nooks, shaded areas.” Some people are just looking for “a place to sit and have a cup of coffee” or “a place to relax.”
Fill it with fun activities
By far, the most popular event demand markets (94%), followed by concerts (68%) and family-friendly events (61%). The markets themselves are a lower-intervention, more passive event (allowing for quiet sitting and eating, people-watching, or even remote work) when compared to more sensory-dominant events such as concerts or films.
Offer Opportunities to Others to Utilize the Space
Several respondents (36) from businesses/organizations indicated an interest in utilizing the space.
And if possible, Include Food
There is a lot of interest, via the comments, in having food available in the park.
What Is Being Planned?
There was great support for creating markets in Westbrook Common. 94% of respondents would love to see some type of market in the space. We are exploring maker’s markets, artist markets, farmers’ markets, and more!
Concerts & Performances
Many respondents (68%) are interested in seeing concerts and performances in the space. Given the existence of the Vallee Square Concert series across the street, live music will have a different identity.
We are exploring various types of performances, including fiddle, contra, history, and more. We are hoping some of our activities can help to address the desire for more family-friendly activities (61%) in the downtown as well. Partnerships with the library and others can help us reach this audience.
More than half (53%) of respondents are interested in small gatherings, intimate events, and community meet-ups. These types of events are perfect opportunities for people to meet their neighbors and genuinely engage with each other.
This type of event could include designated times for folks to meet at the park for a specific activity: a knitting or sketching circle, for instance. It also allows for more coordinated activities, which would be well suited to come from partnerships with local businesses (game nights, trivia nights, etc.). We are looking for volunteers to help lead these smaller events. If you are interested, please let us know.
Zumba/ Tai Chi / Qi Gong (40%)
Many respondents expressed interest in some form of outdoor physical activity, such as Zumba, Tai Chi, or Qi Gong. We are looking to schedule a variety of classes that may happen monthly or more often if possible.
And more…. We are looking for volunteers and folks to be involved! If you want to volunteer or lead an event, reach out to Abby at [email protected]
Westbrook Common is Here and Ready to Be Enjoyed!
The Westbrook Common ribbon cutting recently occurred! We are now offering incredible programming, which you can learn more about in the coming months! Thanks to everyone in the community for coming out to join us!
Stay up to date for programming by visiting our website at https://www.downtownwestbrook.com/westbrook-common/
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See you at the Common!