Making Place in Downtown Berkley

Berkley Art Bash attendees take a break on patio furniture rented by the placemaking committee.

Berkley Art Bash attendees take a break on patio furniture rented by the placemaking committee.

Kids share their ideas of what they would like to see in the space.

Kids share their ideas of what they’d like to see in the space.

As part of the League’s placemaking work, we recently partnered with the city of Berkley and organized a group of residents, business owners, and public officials to brainstorm ways to create a central gathering space in the city’s downtown. Much like the problem the city of Farmington once faced, there isn’t a great downtown Berkley location for people to gather, enjoy take-out, run into neighbors, read a book, and host events. Seeing the space’s potential to build community, the city determined Twelve Mile and Robina may be a place to invest in.

Berkley officials were already planning on making improvements to the Robina and Twelve Mile intersection (the sidewalk is dangerously bumpy and there are some obvious signs of neglect) but wanted to test creative ideas before making any dramatic changes. Twelve Mile Road is populated with local businesses and restaurants and Robina has a block of wide sidewalks with cement planters and trees. The somewhat dated and neglected space is activated only a few times a year with a summer concert series and other small events.

How it worked

Residents and visitors play games and take a break at the Robina and Twelve Mile intersection.

Residents and visitors play games and take a break at the Robina and Twelve Mile intersection.

During an existing event, the Berkley Art Bash, the placemaking committee decorated the intersection with local art, colorful flags, a giant checker board, and moveable patio furniture and let residents do the rest! Kids drew with chalk, a yoga class practiced in the street, people rested on the patio furniture and cement planters, and residents shared their ideas of how they wanted the space to be used in the future.

A Berkley yoga studio brought a class to the space to practice outdoors.

A Berkley yoga studio brought a class to the space to practice outdoors.

Through 1-1 conversations and residents writing their ideas on a large paper posted on a building’s exterior wall, committee members came up with an array of ideas like:

  • Closing the road to make the space pedestrian-only public plaza
  • Hosting weekly outdoor summer movies
  • Making moveable patio furniture a permanent feature
  • Putting in a splash pad
  • Incorporating more plants and trees
  • Painting a mural on the large, brick wall
  • And so many more!!

Next Steps

The committee is currently recording all of the ideas, comments, and concerns residents shared about Robina and Twelve Mile and are putting together a report and presentation to share with the city. Councilmembers, Downtown Development Authority members, residents, and others have committed to schedule presentations to share the results with a larger audience and get the redesign going in the coming months.

 

MML will certainly stay involved and supportive of Berkley’s downtown placemaking process so I’ll be sure to report on the city’s progress.

To get a project like this started in your community or for questions about Berkley’s process, feel free to contact me directly at scraft@mml.org.