CDG recently completed a tactical urbanism pilot project in the City of Red Wing, MN. The project re-imagined the well-traveled intersection of Old West Main St and Jackson St as a pedestrian-oriented space with bump outs, colorful crosswalks, a four-way stop sign, and pop-up activities. As the consultant on this project, CDG guided overall intersection design, programming recommendations, engagement materials, and the processing of community feedback. Implementing this pilot included a few notable lessons:
Committed partnerships among advocacy organizations and city departments make for a higher quality product. Live Healthy Red Wing, with the support of Blue Cross Blue Shield, brought the City of Red Wing in as a partner in developing this pilot project. Coordinating site visits and schematic design decisions with the Public Works department allowed for greater City participation throughout the project. By partnering from the beginning, Live Healthy Red Wing was able to have Public Works perform much of the actual installment of the pilot which meant higher quality materials and tools were used by experienced staff in the implementation.
Intentional business outreach succeeds in building coalitions and changing minds. At the suggestion of CDG, Live Healthy Red Wing reached out to business owners adjacent to the pilot project site before implementation. In reaching out, they encountered some initial skepticism about the value of the pilot. This outreach proved important later for two reasons: it established trust and it provided the project team with a more accurate gauge of business opinion about street improvements. In establishing that relationship, Live Healthy Red Wing staff were able to encourage those business owners to participate in the engagement materials and demonstration experience, leading one adjacent business owner to change his mind about the value of the project.
People like bright colors. Flowered planters, colorful creative crosswalks, bright green artificial turf. These little flourishes drew the public eye to the project and made it more exciting than simply implementing traditional bollards, delineators, and road striping: the grey, beige, and white rudiments of walkable infrastructure alterations. The brighter colors were engaging and drew additional participation from passers buy.
The small pilot demonstration project in Red Wing, MN yielded some big impacts. It educated community members about potential infrastructure improvements that make walking and biking more safe; it gathered valuable feedback about public perception of current street conditions and future improvements; and it provided valuable lessons for organizations looking to implement similar pilot demonstration projects in their communities.