See also: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).
No community can work without a common place. The places that are held in common are what makes a community greater than the sum of its people and allow communities to exist in the first place, let alone function in a healthy way. Common places are cared about the most and what people take the most ownership in – yet people must take ownership in places in order for them to care. The clusters of isolated buildings that currently make up Campustown do not suffice as a place; work needs to be done to make it feel whole. People must take common ownership in spaces in Campustown in order for it to truly become a community and place people feel is important to them.
What is currently the parking area in the heart of Campustown would serve this purpose very well if it were transformed into a square, as it would serve quite perfectly as its center. No single project would provide as much benefit to Ames, as it will provide the physical foundation for Campustown to thrive as a place people will care about. The area is surrounded by buildings that align Welch, Lincoln Way, Hayward and Chamberlain, and can provide a safe and more intimate environment for people to hang out and be social, as well as for businesses to expand their exposure to customers and expand their porches and entrances, offering an improved atmosphere. In the long run, what are now the backs of buildings can become their fronts or another primary entrance. The square would make the whole area much more desirable for people, businesses, and property owners in general, and turn it into a place we can all care about and invest in meaningfully.
Please take a look through the following
slideshare presentation for an introduction
(click the fullscreen icon in the lower right):
The process to transform the parking area into a square will be done piecemeal. The area should be gradually beautified with paint, murals, new paving, and plants and trees. As a square that is too large feels deserted, the area should actually be broken up into smaller squares. It has been found that an area of 150-300 sq ft per person is appropriate, and since one cannot expect more than a few people to be in a space at a given time, squares should be perhaps 45-60 feet across and no more than 70 ft.* The smaller squares should however blend together so that it can feel like one space during larger events. One place to start is the northeast-most corner of the city lot. The area that is not adjacent to parking can serve as the first smaller square. The space will be used more and more for events that will make people begin to use the space.
While the northeast area would be great for a square by itself, the long term desire is to turn the whole area into an area exclusively for people and not vehicles. For one, the case will have to be made to eliminate the more and more of the parking in the city portion, which has 20 parking spots. Initially, parts can be blocked off while allowing access to businesses. But over time, the entire east portion will have to be cut off to access.
So far only half of the businesses and property owners have given their feedback (see the list of business opinions: http://bit.ly/YaV9z4). While most of them support the square, many feel concerned about losing parking. All along the way, these concerns will have to be discussed. It is our hope that all the property owners and businesses will see that creating the square will drive people to their businesses and make the area more desirable for everyone.
*Alexander, Christopher. Pattern 61: Small Public Squares. A Pattern Language. Center for Environmental Structure, 1977.
The goal with ownership is to gradually place the title of the square in the hands of a community nonprofit organization that will hold the square as a common place in perpetuity. The organization will be governed by modified consensus, and completely open and inclusive for anyone to participate. It is essential that the square be owned by such an organization in order for the community that values the space to have a direct say in it and for them to feel that they truly own it. The ongoing maintenance of the square will be sustained through renting out porch space and holding annual events. The funds required to transform the space and purchase any property will be raised from donations from around the community. Let us know if you are interested in contributing to the foundation and development of the square.
Work began in 2014 to begin the effort towards transformation by Nitin Gadia and Ryan Jeffrey, residents of Ames. Renderings were completed, and an attempt was made to contact every business owner surrounding the proposed square. Meetings were held with the City of Ames planning and police departments to go over any issues, and the effort was launched in September 2014.
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