Saturday was the heart of the Pike Neighborhoods Plan Charrette: the Community Hands-on Design Session. I was impressed by the number of folks willing to be up and around at 9am on a Saturday ready to do 5 1/2 hours of urban planning. As we arrived, we signed in and were split up to different tables by Civic Association. Each table was focused on a portion of the Pike that included their Civic Association. Since I'm a Penrose resident, I was at a table for the eastern end of the Pike - our area covered from approximately Glebe Rd to the Washington Blvd interchange. There were other tables focused on the middle of the Pike, the west end of the Pike and also 2 tables focused specifically on Foxcroft Heights as there appears to be some specific tension going on in that small neighborhood as a result of the changes coming to the Navy Annex and the Cemetery.

In our small groups, we went through three different exercises designed to get us thinking and to elicit feedback for the design team. The first was a large poster showing various different examples of mixed use buildings, mid-rise residential buildings and low-rise residential buildings. We were then given red and green stickers to put on the poster indicating which buildings particularly liked and which we particularly disliked and encourage to write on the posters why we felt that way.

For the 2nd exercise, we were given a map which had divided the Pike into zones. The first zone was the already existing commercial revitalization nodes that the Form Based Code defined. The second covered the multi-family residential areas closest to the Pike. The third covered those multi-family residential areas that were farther from the Pike, those that interface directly with the single family home areas. We were asked to examine those zones and draw any changes we thought were necessary as far as what areas were in each zone, and then to imagine what we thought those zones should look like as far as building height, style, etc and draw & write that on the map as well.

The final, and most fun exercise, gave us a map of our subsection of the Pike along with paper, scissors and magic markers and we were encouraged to draw and write all over it to illustrate our dream version of the Pike. What would we change? What would we preserve? My group went to town, by the time we were done there were additional street connections, wider sidewalks, additional bike trails connections, new parks, community gardens and rec centers, along with mixed income, mixed age housing, senior housing and more.

Finally each table picked a spokesmen and presented their ideas to the whole of the group. There were a lot of common themes and a lot of very interesting ideas presented. I look forward to seeing how all of our crazy ideas and dreams will be translated into rules and regulations by the design team.

Even if you missed the hands-on session, it is not too late to get your own crazy ideas and wild dreams for the Pike taken into consideration! The same set of consultants who ran us ragged on Saturday have setup shop in Siena Park and are holding open office hours on Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday of this week from 10am to 6pm. They are also having an open house on Tuesday evening from 7pm-9pm to show their interim progress. Finally, they will present their progress-to-date back at the Sheraton on Wednesday evening from 7pm-9:30pm. Often on local mailing lists people ask "Who decided this? When did these decisions get made? Why are these the priorities?" The answers is right here, right now. The plans that are coming out of this charrette will shape the Pike for at least the next 30 years. Take some time and be heard!
For additional details, see the Pike Neighborhoods Plan website.