June 5, 2017

A Community of Friends' Saturday @ the Square

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A Community of Friends - Saturday @ the Square

Enterprise’s Collaborative Action Grants provide organizations with $5,000 to build community agency, engage local voices and connect to long-term community goals. Round two of the 2017 Collaborative Actions grant cycle is open now. Apply by June 9, 2017.

In this blog post, A Community of Friends (ACOF), one of 15 recipients of an Enterprise Collaborative Action Grant in 2016, talks about their Saturday @ the Square Collaborative Action in Los Angeles.

How did this Collaborative Action capture the spirit of your community?

Hosted by ACOF on the vacant site of a future affordable housing development, Saturday @ the Square featured a DJ, the local food truck Son of a Bun, and three stations for people to stop by and discuss, write, or draw their stories. The stations fostered communication around different issues and different scales. At the first station, people looked at their neighborhood as a whole and discussed community scale topics such as transportation and commercial needs. The second station addressed the building scale, and participants discussed the design of the building and needs at this specific site. Individual scale needs and aspirations were discussed at the third station where people shared their own stories and connection to the community.

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Kids were especially active in sharing their ideas for what was needed at the site. Adults were more reserved, leading to a shift in our tactic for engagement from stations to conversations. Our volunteers engaged neighbors directly in conversations about their perspective on the needs of the community. These conversations were generally centered on the commercial needs and challenges at the specific site location. Several people brought up parking issues, the quality of nearby commercial stores, and what they perceive to be missing in the neighborhood.

The connections made and relationships established because of the event will continue as the development of the site and the neighborhood initiatives move forward. While the nature of the event changed, the purpose – engaging neighbors in creating and contributing to a collective vision of their community – was ultimately achieved.

How did this contribute to increased capacity for your local community?

Saturday @ the Square brought members of the community together, providing an informal setting for neighbors to connect with the site owner (ACOF), as well as the design team for the upcoming project (FSY Architects). The event allowed neighbors to establish open conversations and provide immediate feedback, as well as develop meaningful relationships for future input in the development of the area. It created a space for residents to share their vision in a comfortable and relaxed setting.

How did this Collaborative Action impact long-term neighborhood goals?

The event took place at the site of a future mixed-use building with affordable housing and a yet-to-be-determined commercial component. It is located at a corner where pedestrian, bike, and street upgrades have the potential to transform the area. While many of the neighbors had a positive reaction to these developments, it was the first time they had heard news of anything happening in the neighborhood.

 

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Saturday @ the Square was intended to provide an opportunity for the community to have a voice and share in the vision for the neighborhood. It allowed neighbors to provide constructive input on the commercial needs and community interests of this particular corner in Huntington Park. During the event, members of the development team for Huntington Square Apartments had conversations with community members as they were standing in line for the food truck, sitting at tables, and lounging in the outdoor ‘living room’. Many attendees also wrote their vision on chalkboards asking what they want to see in their neighborhood. Feedback was given on the type of commercial tenants desired (healthy restaurants, 99¢ store and a coffee shop were suggested by parents with children in the school across the street) and the type of spaced needed for the surrounding community. A park, playground and a skate park were particularly popular with kids and families.

All this feedback was documented and will be used to inform the future development of Huntington Square Apartments. More importantly, the connections made during the event will continue throughout the design and development process.

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