A simple internet search will give you the definition of a grassroots movement, which is one that utilizes the people in a district, region, or community as the basis for a movement. Grassroots movements use collective action from the local level to inspire change at the local, regional, national, or international level. Grassroots movements are associated with bottom-up, rather than top-down decision making, and are generally more of a spontaneous act.
The reason I give you this definition is because I have seen an increased energy amongst the community and business owners. And in just the past week, there has been a couple instances of a grassroots beginning.
First off, our Coffee Connections–which are as simple as they sound and entail people gathering over a cup of coffee and discussing urban issues and ideas–have increasingly peaked the interest of the local business owners. This past Coffee Connection was a re-cap on all of the other topics we’ve previously discussed, such as tactical urbanism, planning, place identity, and tourism. And we also discussed the future of our holiday event for this year. The Coffee Connection is a great platform to discuss concerns and also network. But, the main point is that the people present had IDEAS that are tangible and reachable.
Following the Coffee Connection, John Lusk of JHL Architecture (located on Main Street) had a public meeting with officials from the City, as well as business owners on an updated urban “Masterplan” proposal for the city. This would detail everything from beautification, to making 2nd & 3rd story floors accessible, to utilizing parking more efficiently. I thought it was interesting to note that John and fellow architect Quinten Castle spoke about how there has been a major shift in how people aspire to live. They mentioned that urban sprawling is something that my generation is overall against, and that downtown living is a more appealing environment for a number of reasons–transportation needs are minimal, grocery & retail are available, entertainment is accessible, etc. The ideas that John and Quinten proposed were exciting. The focus for their next meeting, which they plan to make more public, is to decide on a first step in tackling this masterplan, and trying to get the city and other organizations involved.
Back tracking a bit, a week earlier I proposed a plan for the 2019 events to the HPG board of directors–which was approved. And the events will be tailor fit to this whole concept of re-imaging and renewing downtown. So for 2019 you can expect a more focused event on our city heritage, an event that focuses on a major act, and an updated & improved holiday event. You can also expect a more organized, legitimate Farmers Market, and a consistent lineup of local musicians throughout the summer. With our budget, it made the most sense to concentrate on a few quality events, and promote the district as a whole. These events should have the most trickle down effect, as compared to the plethora of small events we currently provide.
So, with people energized about giving Hornell a facelift and our plan to generate more meaningful events for downtown, I’m led to believe that we are at the beginning of a grassroots movement where the community is involved, as well as the businesses that want to see Hornell flourish. There has been some naysayers, but I think that at the very least, these talks and events have people asking questions and wanting change. And it leaves me in an interesting position–being both the Executive Director of Hornell Partners for Growth and a business owner in the district–a position of diligent action. And if I can with these positions be a catalyst of a movement where we all want to see change, then I will use this platform to do so.
So the question for the other powers that be is simple: do you want to see the Hornell downtown develop and flourish? Yes or no?
I’d hope that the answer would be yes, 100 times over. So, lets see where these events and these ideas take us….