The Person Street Partnership (PSP) is a neighborhood group that has been advocating for the improvement of the Person Street business district for many years. This area is within close walkable distance to downtown Raleigh and holds great potential.
Towards that effort, longtime resident Tina Govan approached Philip Bernard, head of the PSP group, about proposing ideas for facade improvements and how the many surface parking lots might be used in other ways. With so much precious real estate devoted to cars, especially in such a pedestrian-oriented community, could these lots becomes places for people too?
How could we invite our neighborhood businesses to come outside on occasion, to enliven our street, transforming parking lots into plazas?
There are many possible ways in which we could share the use of these lots...
This kind of transformation is happening in other parts of the country. "Tactical Urbanism" is a new movement aimed at improving urban neighborhoods and shared spaces via small scale, temporary change. One example is Park(ing) Day, when people temporarily transform a parking space for people use.
With so much curb cut on Person St., some buffer from the street is needed. Movable planters, or even small trees, are a possible solution.
Benches and planters could be combined to define these multipurpose parking lot/plazas, adding greenery and places to sit.
The surface of the parking lots could be changed, even painted, green walls could delineate and soften these plaza/lots. Nicole's art gallery might even spill out onto the parking lot for an outdoor show...
What was used to be a space only for cars...
could become a weekend outdoor art show,
and it turns out that it's possible.
Marsh Woodwinds, a local gem of a music store, a true Raleigh institution, is another unique business along this strip. Its idiocyncratic window displays give some clue to the magical musical world that lies within.
With the removal of the existing awning, perhaps these intriguing windows could be more clearly revealed, becoming the billboard for the store. With the addition of plantings, street buffers and seating, perhaps a kind of "music plaza" could evolve, with some of the indoor performances that occur here spilling outside.
In collaboration with other neighborhood designers, we assembled our collective ideas for the holiday PSP meeting, focusing on ideas we could implement ourselves. Working top-down and ground-up are both important, but empowering the people and businesses of a neighborhood is key.
Designer Chad Butterworth proposed ideas for the "music plaza," such as a musical bench or an outdoor piano available for anyone to play. "Street pianos" are happening in many cities across the globe, even Durham.
And things are beginning to happen... The neighborhood came together to give a facelift to the old Barbershop, and we are now organizing for a mural on its side, proposed by neighbor Jeremy Hauch. The idea is that it would be by
and of our neighborhood children, something they might visit years later, when they are grown.
We believe people make the place, and if we can invite the life that is already there, but too often trapped inside, out onto the streets, then we can achieve Raleigh's goal of "Livable Streets" and help build lively, connected communities.