Campustown Square

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

> This FAQ is about the current effort to turn the northeast portion into a square.

(1) What is the purpose of this project?

The purpose of this project is to create a common, pedestrian-only area in Campustown, starting with sectioning off a small area behind Copyworks (see image in announcement or online). We are currently expanding this into a wider community effort in advance of submitting a proposal to the City Council, to allow the space to be used for a one year trial. If the Council feels it would be positive, and that is is tenable, and city staff see no problems, they may vote for it.

(2) Will the proposed area affect parking?

No. The area was chosen so that it would not interfere with any parking, loading access or utilities.
While in the long run the goal is to expand into the parking area, we wanted to start with an area that people can agree upon, and then go from there.

(3) Do surrounding businesses support the square?

Businesses have so far been supportive of the small space, though it is yet to be seen what everyone thinks as the project unfolds. There is a mixture of opinion on expanding into the larger space, with some ambivalent parking being affected. The exact opinions of each business on the larger space can be found on the website on the “About” page.

(4) Isn’t the proposed area a bit small?

It is precisely because it is small that the space will work. Think about it – if a space feels empty, you don’t want to go there; this is a common mistake that people make – if a space is large, it takes a lot of people to fill a space in order for it to not feel empty and inhospitable, while only a few people can give life to a small square. Studies have shown that people need 150-300 sq feet per person in order for a social space to feel alive and inviting, and should be no more than 45-60 feet across in order for that to readily happen. If we expand further, the entire parking area will be broken up into smaller pieces in the context of a larger whole.

(5) How can this go forward without a plan?

All of the best common spaces have been created through an unfolding, piecemeal process. One can observe this even lives; asking to develop a common area from a plan is like asking someone to arrange a living room without furniture, or asking a painter to provide a drawing before something is painted. While this goes against what has become common architectural norms, we are going to use a process drawn from successful, tried and tested practices.

(6) How can you do this with so few people involved?

Nearly every great business and home is made great by just a few people, often even a single person. When people are given the opportunity to take the same personal pride and care and ownership in common areas as they do in their private lives, they likewise make common areas great. This can be seen everywhere in Ames, where people are given flower gardens and benches to paint.
The proposed area can be thought of as the backyard that extends beyond the porches of the businesses that will benefit. It is smaller than the areas the businesses maintain every day, so it’s not much of a stretch for the area to be kept clean and improved. Given the opportunity, people will bring a vast improvement, beautifying the space and sweeping the floor as they do with places they own. Currently the area is dirty, littered and unsafe. A common space can only come from everyone feeling they own a part of what’s common.

(7) How are you going to raise the money needed to pull this off?

The amount of money required to make this work is small. The greatest necessary cost will be insurance, which we have been quoted as $2-3,000 per year, or up to $300/mo. We are not making permanent changes, we will only be making creative changes, which many call “light, quick and cheap” – adding seating, decorations, art, plants, and paint.

(8) What about liability?

Campustown Square has been formed, and is a nonprofit corporation that will assume all liability. Insurance has been quoted as $2-3,000 per year, or up to $300/mo.

(9) What about the dumpsters?

Dumpsters are not required to be next to properties, they can be anywhere as long as they don’t obstruct access. Most of the dumpsters belong to businesses well outside the intended space, and business owners are confident that dumpsters can be moved elsewhere in the vicinity.

(10) How is this going to be maintained?

The District has committed to keeping the area clean, and will be a part of their normal cleaning process, when they clean their back porch. Any major issues such as vandalism will be handled by the individuals coordinating and taking responsibility for the project.

(11) Who is to decide what is going in the space, and how?

The process of determining how the space will unfold will be strictly through a process that is piecemeal, and will be informal, action-oriented, open and inclusive, and driven by as wide of a consensus as possible from those who participate. Meetings will be held where people are free to attend. Initially, there will be a visioning process, where people discuss what they want in the space. The elements will be brought together, and implemented one at a time.


Campustown Square