November 8, 2017
On October 18th at the Norwalk Library on Belden Avenue, the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency with their consultant the Regional Plan Association (RPA), gained insight from children, parents, and residents on their vision for the Wall Street – West Avenue neighborhood. After distributing over 400 flyers, nearly a dozen families came to share their thoughts, and created their ideal neighborhood with various objects.
This type of creative outreach called City as Play, developed by James Rojas, a Los Angeles-based community outreach planner, is meant to engage residents of all ages into the planning process. The activity lets participants choose from the variety of objects to create their ideal neighborhood. The objects can inform opinions and hopes for the neighborhood as well as visualize a physical form.
The event began with a dot activity where participants put a dot on a map of where they live within the neighborhood, where they like spending time, and where they dislike spending time. This activity was followed by a short presentation by RPA on what urban planning is and what they do as planners, and why the publics input is needed, which set the stage for the activity.
The group then jumped right in to the City as Play activity and grabbed as many objects as they could to build their perfect neighborhood. Facilitators then went around the room and asked why they placed objects in certain places, why they included these objects, and what the objects represented to them. This gave insight into the participants’ thoughts, concerns, and hopes for their neighborhood in the future. Each person then presented his or her own design to the group.
There were common themes that came up in each of the models, including better parking, safety, affordability, and connectivity by means of walking and bike paths. This resulted in the realization that many of the pros and cons of the neighborhood were common among those in the room, which spurred further conversation about solutions to the issues. Overall, the event was well received and resulted in constructive input that will be used to inform the Wall Street West Avenue Neighborhood Plan.