You design it

Mid City Studio explains how a community-designed park comes together

Spain Street Park in Mid City is getting a revamp, and the chief designers behind it? The surrounding Fuqua neighborhood residents.

In early March, Mid City Studio announced it would be working with BREC to see the project come to fruition. Spurred by Mid City Studio’s recent work in the neighborhood, BREC enlisted the studio to help rally nearby residents to provide their input and ideas for park improvements.

It’s the first time the design studio, headed up by William Doran and Lynley A. Farris, has participated in an endeavor like this, after spending the past three years drumming up interest in urban renewal in Mid City.

The nonprofit began in 2015 with the #IAMMIDCITY campaign, developing small urban design projects around the area. Monthly “Coffee on the Porch” meetups followed at underutilized spots around Mid City to help bridge the gap between disjointed parts of the neighborhood.

Then came a photography project with students at Bernard Terrace Elementary and Dufrocq Montessori Magnet Elementary, the results of which were displayed in a mural at nearby Spain Street Park. The studio developed a strong relationship with the Fuqua neighborhood through the process, Doran says. “Part of the reason I think this came together is because we saw how actively this park was used in the community, and that it really needed some TLC,” he says.

We asked Doran to explain the first steps toward a community-designed park. midcitystudio.org

In the toolbox

“What BREC proposed to do with us is to come up with a toolbox of different options that people can sort of pick and choose and say, ‘We’d like to see this over here. Can we do some sort of a mural wall over here, and this is what we’d like to put on it.’ I think it’s important to throw some general ideas out there but to also remain flexible, because a lot of the creativity and definitely the expertise about the neighborhood comes from those people—they’re the experts.”

Let’s collaborate

“Building those relationships is kind of step one to doing any community-designed anything. You’re not really doing something for the community, you’re collaborating with them or helping people who live in a neighborhood to put something together that they want to see. We’re not hot-shot designers coming in saying, ‘Let’s put this really cool thing here.’”

Who needs a park?

“We talk a lot about porches being a form of building community. I think you can look at parks the same way—it’s a place where you can talk to your neighbors and catch up on gossip and find out what’s going on, spending time there and building relationships with your neighbors. It’s a safe place for kids … I think it’s really important to look for productive things kids can do in a park.”

Participation is key

“If you’re a resident, you’re going to be attending some meetings, and make sure you participate and talk to BREC and talk to us about what you would like to see in the park: what works really well in the park and what doesn’t and if there are problems. Doing stuff like this also gives an outlet to community members and residents.”

This article was originally published in the May 2017 issue of 225 Magazine.