By Ryan Sandwick, CEDIK Community Design Specialist
This summer CEDIK is leading a multi-disciplinary intern cohort in Manchester, Kentucky to complete a downtown plan that will serve as a foundation for future revitalization efforts. Last month we wrote a blog announcing the project, and now we’d love to share a midterm update with y’all.
The students are working at full steam to understand what makes downtown Manchester special, and what can be done to amplify that. The focus areas we’re evaluating contribute to the look and feel of downtown including physical elements, such as benches and street designs, and cultural ones, such as what type of buildings residents prefer. Evaluating the community’s preferences on this broad range of focus areas has been undertaken through extensive community engagement. Each week we’ve set up a mobile design studio at The Makery where we’ve had a wide range of residents and local stakeholders provide feedback and share their experiences with us.
We are making ongoing attempts to expand the number and variety of residents to gather a broad consensus of what the community’s values are relating to downtown. A recent attempt was a visual preference survey during Manchester’s Main St. Market in June. We set up tables with a variety of photos and asked people “Which of these photos are most like Manchester, and which are least?” Each of the photos had a Post It underneath it where participants would write a check for most like Manchester, and an X for least like Manchester. While none of the photos were of Manchester we selected photos from other places that reminded us of the buildings and places that exist there. We had several dozen respondents, and the results were incredibly helpful in showing us the community’s aesthetic preferences and values.
Public spaces is a good example to use to highlight the helpfulness of this survey process. Throughout our work this summer we’ve found that Manchester doesn’t have a town square or a central gathering space for people to utilize in their downtown. In effort to gauge their thoughts on this, and to know if they supported the idea of one in general, we included pictures of a variety of public spaces for people to choose. The photos ranged from temporary parklets on a painted parking lot to high design urban plazas and everything in between. Our top five takeaways regarding ‘place preferences’ were:
- The community has a strong desire and interest in having an interactive water feature
- Areas with adequate shade are highly preferred
- Participants had a strong desire for the use of vegetation for education and aesthetic qualities
- Introduction of places for local residents to attend events and to socialize downtown
- A strong interest in making use of underutilized areas
Overall, images that represented a more artisanal or small town feel to them were enthusiastically embraced, while more modern and urban images fell towards the bottom. This was not wholly unexpected. However, the confirmation will help inform our next steps as we begin developing our menu of projects that can be undertaken in the downtown. With this understanding we can not only suggest the general addition of public seating in town, but also what type of seating people prefer (individual seats versus benches, etc). Further, designs illustrating types of temporary public seating that can be built quickly and with minimal cost, which will provide the opportunity to identify locations where people want to sit before permanent and more expensive investments are proposed. As we move into the next steps of developing our findings and recommendations, we now have a clearer understanding of what the community wants to experience downtown.
Spending our summer in Manchester has been a pleasure, and talking with people at the Main St. Market about what downtown Manchester could be was especially exciting. If you live or work in Manchester or Clay County and would like to get involved, it’s not too late! We will be working from The Makery each Thursday through the end of July. Please feel free to stop by, see what the interns have come up with so far, and give us some feedback.
If you have any questions or would like any additional information, please feel free to reach out to Ryan Sandwick, our Community Design Specialist at Ryan.Sandwick@uky.edu