city

Hello Hornell!

As you already know, I’ve been walking the Hornell Partners for Growth Business Improvement District.  This weekend I finished it up, and will talk about the remaining section in the coming days.  Today, however, I’m going to take a slight detour from the walking tour, and talk more at length about a concept I’ve talked a bit about at the Coffee Connections and in our semi-bi-weekly newsletter.  That concept is: Tactical Urbanism.

To give you a summary on what tactical urbanism is, I looked to tacticalurbanismguide.com for a concise definition.  According to the site, tactical urbanism is “all about action. Also known as DIY Urbanism, Planning-by-Doing, Urban Acupuncture, or Urban Prototyping, this approach refers to a city, organizational, and/or citizen-led approach to neighborhood building using short-term, low-cost, and scalable interventions to catalyze long-term change.”  So in essence, temporarily changing the flow of traffic (pedestrian and vehicle), or using dynamic and visual approaches to building or public space to encourage business.  Tactical Urbanism is often a blended approach of community oriented projects to facilitate urban and economic growth and prosperity.

So, when I first took the HPG Executive Director gig, I too was a little uneducated on what exactly a Business Improvement District is and does, as I think a lot of others were.  Realizing that (and I’ve said this before) a good way to business is through the community, I noticed that the relationship between HPG, the community, and the businesses within HPG was (is) strained and is not symbiotic.  So, in an effort to educate myself as quickly as possible, I instantly formed contact with the Albany BID, the Central BID, and simply asked “where should I start?”

The answer was a Placemaking & Tactical Urbanism conference at the Gloversville, NY Downtown BID.  I attended this conference on the 7th and 8th day of my hire, and it quickly pointed me on a path for Hornell.  Gloversville’s urban design is much like Hornell’s.  There is a downtown that resembles Hornell greatly, but it’s major highways lead traffic away from the downtown.  And there is no reason that Gloversville shouldn’t thrive, as it is 25 minutes or less from major tourist destinations like Saratoga, the Adirondacks, etc.  But, due to some design flaws and unwillingness for change, the downtown slowly became more and more empty.  Until, the BID started utilizing a few new concepts including Placemaking & Tactical Urbanism! (Que in the “great idea” light bulb)

So, after attending the conference and seeing the similarities between Hornell and Gloversville, I thought to myself: if nothing else, Tactical Urbanism needs to be a large part of what I do as the new director.  That way, we won’t lose the sense of community and we also will gain, at the very least, attention–good or bad, only time can tell.

Over the summer, HPG was concentrated on the events that were already in motion: Wildflower Festival, Fourth of July Celebration, Chalk-A-Mile, Monarch Festival, Thursdays in the Park, and Farmers Market.  So, my train derailed a bit as I focused on seeing these events through.  Now that those are over with for the summer (with the exception of the Farmers Market), we can get back to the ideas I gained at this conference.  From walking the city this last week, I have seen so much potential for tactical urbanism.

After the walking tour is complete, I’m going to blog about some tactical urbanism efforts.  I challenge you to find these efforts before I write about them.  I don’t plan to be subtle about it either, so I anticipate people talking about it before we get it penned to paper.

Join me the rest of this week for the continued Walking Tour, and thank you for taking this detour with me!

-Justin

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