Last night we had the pleasure of presenting three concepts at a community visioning event for the Town Square design at the corner of Pleasant Grove and Holmes Roads here in SW Lansing. The new Town Square will be transforming an existing expanse of asphalt parking lot into a pedestrian-friendly open space celebrating the community’s identity through a custom art piece. This placemaking initiative is a partnership between the Arts Council of Greater Lansing, the City of Lansing, LEAP, and the South Lansing Community Development Association.
Town Square Design Background
Born out of the City of Lansing’s Arts Impact Project (a $75,000 grant for the commissioning of a public art installation in Lansing) the Town Square design has become a way to reduce blight in our community, a key of successful placemaking. I think that the community says it best when they say, “The cover of the book [corner of Pleasant Grove and Holmes] doesn’t match the stories in the book.”
With this starting knowledge of the community, we knew that it would be important to listen well to learn what those stories are that are being hidden inside the book. We started out by learning what matters to the members of this community. Interestingly enough, words started to repeat. Words like DIVERSITY, FAMILY and COMMUNITY.
The community was right; the cover of their book didn’t match the stories that they were telling.
A Beautiful Space You Happen To Go By
Because nearly everyone living in the surrounding SW Lansing neighborhoods drives past this intersection when going to and from work, it is time to redevelop this space. It’s time to create a place that the community can be proud of.
To that end, we developed three Town Square design concepts for feedback from the community. Because the artists are still developing the art piece, we represented the space where it will be placed as a 25′ diameter circle colored orange. This is just a placeholder for the time-being.
We explained each option to the community and showed some images of what these concepts could look like when they are constructed.
With many residents passing through this intersection on a daily basis, the sculpture needs to have clear visibility from Pleasant Grove Rd. In this option, we’re achieving that goal by positioning the art piece close to Pleasant Grove Rd. Adjacent to the sculpture, this concept has an expanse of lawn area and paved gathering space. This gathering space is roughly 50’ x 80’, which could accommodate a small festival, block party or other community event. Along the edges of the gathering space, there are trees that define its boundary. We’re also showing trees interspersed within the pavement to provide shade and make the space more useable on hot summer days. Additionally, there are tables and chairs shown within the gathering space on this concept. This could be a permanent picnic table, with or without umbrellas. Either way it would be a nice spot to grab some takeout from Sherronda’s and eat it in the Town Square.
You’ll notice that this concept has the art piece further into the site, while still keeping it viewable from Pleasant Grove Rd. This concept also has a large paved gathering space adjacent to the sculpture (roughly 45’ x 60’), which could be used for holding events like a car show or farmers market. The edge near the parking lot is lined with trees that will provide shade and create a separation between the site’s busy vehicular traffic and the pedestrian oriented experience within the Town Square. The sidewalk leading from the large gathering space toward Pleasant Grove is lined with poles where community event banners could hang to announce community events and be changed out seasonally. Or possibly the poles could display flags representing the rich diversity of nationalities within the SW Lansing community.
This concept is more symmetrical. There are (2) 25’ circles on either end of the east/west axis of the Town Square. The circle nearer to Pleasant Grove Rd. is reserved for the art piece to increase its visibility. Along the west edge of the art piece pavement, there is a seat wall. This could be a nice location to sit while you wait for someone to get their hair cut at True Styles & Fades or BW’s or where you could sit while you wait for a bus. Either way, you would have a fantastic view of the art sculpture from where you sit.
On the opposite side of the Town Square, there is a small paved gathering space. There could be benches in this space. It also could be used for small concerts where the musicians set up their instruments and equipment in the plaza. In the middle of the Town Square, there is an expanse of bermed lawn. The audience for the concert could sit on the slope of the 3’ berm and have a great view of the performers. The berm is surrounded with a walkway and a line of trees on both sides. Similar to the last concept these trees help to buffer between the vehicular use of the parking lot and the pedestrian use of the Town Square.
Community Involvement and Feedback
After presenting the three Concept designs for the Town Square, we asked the crowd 5 questions:
- Which concept you like the best.
- What you prefer about that concept.
- How you see yourself using that space.
- Who you would use it with.
- What is missing to make this space more useable for you.
It was amazing to hear their feedback. Getting a community to visualize a space and imagine themselves using the space is truly an energizing experience. Many people expressed excitement about the possibility of holding events in the Town Square, and therefore preferred elements of options A or B. They liked having seating in the plaza, like we showed in Concept C. My favorite comment of the night didn’t come until the meeting had ended. A lady from the community shared with me that when she visualized herself using the Town Square, she was sitting in the space enjoying an ice cream cone. That sounded perfect to me!
The community has one more week to give feedback on the plans before we move forward designing the Town Square as it will be constructed later this year. If you have anything to add, write it in the comments, or email Meghan Martin at [email protected] before June 22!