RVM employees transform Denver spaces into 'places'
December 08, 2014 at 10:55 AM
Although it may sound like an action blockbuster movie starring your favorite 80s Hollywood star, Tactical Urbanism is actually a program put on by the Downtown Denver Leadership (DDL) program to transform underutilized urban spaces via inexpensive, experimental projects to make them more lively. Two RVM employees recently participated in the program and created bike parking out of downtown metered spaces and livened up an urban bike path by creating a chalk art festival destination.
Dan Orlinski and Alison Bodor participated in the seven month project to engage the community, create a space for conversation, and showcase art and culture. After taking former DDL board member and current CFO Dan May's direction to join, they each looked at projects that would get people talking and allow them to flex their "emerging leader"-type muscles.
"We split up into groups and came up with our high-level concept. We had to work through drawings, figure out if our project would work, and if there was the right space. We then presented them in March/April," said Orlinski.
Orlinski's group saw two curbside parking spots and transformed them into one space for parking eight bicycles with a chalkboard to discuss cycling downtown. Dubbed a "bike parklet" the semi-portable wooden structure was a hit with significant participation. Located on Wynkoop Street between 16th and 17th for two weeks at the beginning of October, the parklet initially focused on providing bike parking, but it was used more as a place to broadcast and discuss cycling infrastructure in downtown Denver.
"I'm a cyclist and I was drawn toward this project. [Bike parking] tends to be a problem, especially in highly congested areas because people tie them up to trees or railings and it interferes with the pedestrian right-of-way. We wanted to get people talking about it and I think this project was pretty effective," said Orlinski.
Bodor saw a stretch of Cherry Creek Trail between Larimer and Platte along Speer Boulevard and transformed it from an irrigation canal/concrete path into a festival called "Chalk the Creek Front." Bringing in a DJ, food cart, chalk and the public's creativity, the event made the area a destination instead of just a thoroughfare. RVM helped sponsor the event.
Looking to make public spaces more user-friendly and a community gathering area was one of the goals of the project. "As you densify urban areas, people feel connected to their city when they have some kind of interaction," said Bodor.
Overall, their projects helped Orlinski and Bodor learn how to work with fellow community leaders, how to overcome challenges such as permitting and minimal budgets, and ways to engage a public on the go.
"The big lesson I learned was who can help you to engage the community when doing something different," said Bodor.