The March 19th “Twitter Town Hall on Popup Placemaking” reached a potential audience of more than 44,000 individuals and organizations across Michigan and the entire nation.The social media event (itself a kind of popup public forum!) was sponsored by Let’s Save Michigan to help spread the word on pop ups—temporary events and projects that experiment with novel ways to energize and activate public spaces.
Some of those experiments can blossom into permanent businesses or urban innovations, while others can open new conversations about what is and isn’t possible in urban planning (think 2009’s famous temporary transformation of New York City’s Times Square into a pedestrian mall, using nothing more than lawn chairs and pylons).
The featured experts were Michael Forsyth, the retail business development manager for the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and Program Manager of REVOLVE; Rachel Perschetz, who currently works in real estate development as a Detroit revitalization fellow at Southwest Housing Solutions, a nonprofit housing developer in Southwest Detroit;Talia Piazza, a life-long Pittsburgh, PA resident who is the marketing and program coordinator at the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development; and Kristen Freiss, the program manager for Leadership Pittsburgh Inc.
Each spoke about the pop up projects they’ve been involved in. Michael explained how REVOLVE has sparked a whole flock of temporary shops, art installations and eateries in vacant storefronts in Detroit’s West Village. The pop ups demonstrate the potential viability of permanent businesses in the neighborhood.
Talia focuses on new and creative ways to revitalize neighborhoods, including building co-ops and incubators to making a neighborhood zombie film.
Among her many roles, Kristen manages PopUp! Pittsburgh, a one-day phenomenon during which LPInc works with a “tipping point” neighborhood to revitalize and activate space through pop ups.
Besides sharing their personal experiences, the experts offered some savvy tidbits of wisdom and advice to others wanting to try the pop up concept, including: engage residents and businesses from the start; make it fun; do your homework on local codes and ordinances; don’t be afraid to fail.
The one-hour public conversation was echoed via Twitter, at a rate of 3.4 tweets per minute.
“In terms of panelist feedback, there was a round of emailing about how they all enjoyed the conversation; they specifically noted that it was great to share ideas and learn from other projects,” said organizer Sarah Szurpicki. “One commented that her entire office had been discussing for the rest of the day what a great concept the call/town hall was. It’s a role I really like for LSM — bringing ‘do-ers’ together and facilitating a conversation that allows them to share information.”