Tactical urbanism – progress as a “happening”

Tactical urbanism – progress as a “happening”

In urban planning and design, ideas rarely go from “paper to pavement” in the blink of an eye. There’s good reason for that. All stakeholders need opportunity to evaluate the plan. The public needs the opportunity to voice concerns and ask questions. There’s often an overlap between private and public interests that need to be addressed. Of course, there’s funding.

Here’s an interesting idea: “Tactical Urbanism” – it’s also the name of a book by Anthony Garcia and Mike Lydon of Street Plans. We learned from a recent interview how the pair and their firm are engaging the public with demonstration and pop-up projects to gauge user acceptance, cost vs. benefits and long-term feasibility. Such projects can last a day or maybe month. A temporary “makeover” of a neglected alley is an example. Or a pop-up parklet, protected bike lane or a parking median converted into a pedestrian plaza with live entertainment.

Certain types of “happenings” to activate streets were once used as a form of protest. Now, in working with public planning agencies, firms are able to audition certain changes intended to increase walkability, pedestrian and bike safety, and connectivity on a temporary basis using funding from small grants or endowments. The public and all stakeholders get a “try before you buy” opportunity, which builds participation and civic engagement.

If you could stage a tactical urbanism demonstration anywhere in your city, where and what would it be? We’ll leave you with this quote from Garcia in that interview:

“Where tactical urbanism and New Urbanism meet is in the action that you take on the ground as a way to inform the policy and the zoning and the regulatory side that actually empowers the water colors and the renderings to become real. So if you’re taking a large vacant site and you’re activating it, then you’re showing demand and interest and the viability of concepts. It’s a tool that can show property owners, businesses, city leaders this stuff is actually doable and viable.”

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