Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Temporarily Unbelievable

In an urban core abundant with vacant land, abandoned buildings, and frequently empty public spaces, it is often hard to view these spaces as assets to the community. While everyone has ideas for what kinds of buildings and spaces should be where, who should design them, and who should be permitted to inhabit them, it is not often we get to experiment with those thoughts in a real way. With all these empty and abandoned assets, I find it quite remarkable experimentation with public space and the built environment has not seemingly found a larger role.

Recently, Pop Up Cleveland, an initiative founded by Terry Schwarz, has received funding from the Civic Innovation Lab, the Sears Swet-land Foundation, and additional support from Kent State University’s CUDC. Attempting to create “temporary events and installations that occupy vacant buildings and activate vacate land in ways that shine a spotlight on some of Cleveland’s spectacular but underutilized properties”, this initiative has a real opportunity to contribute to the establishment of a new culture of experimentation here in Cleveland.

I love the fact that Terry has set out to reclaim this once vibrant space, even if only for a night, and create something so peculiarly fantastic that people will once again be forced, or should I said invited, to experience The Flats East Bank. The evening has every opportunity to benefit all vested interests in the site; from the developers, to area residents, to visitors, potential future residents/retailers, vagabonds, and most certainly the Hustler Club dancers, that have likely not scene that area of the site flood with visitors in....ever.

While the evening will certainly benefit the developers (as it absolutely should) through the re-exposure of their project site to the community, the most important benefit will hopefully be me (as it absolutely needs to). Well not realllyyy me, but me in a different, less obvious (and grammatically correct) sense of the word me…..you (or should I use generally “us”). Anyone who has sat at Shooters on a Sunday evening in the summer and watched the sunset cast a beautifully depressing orange glow over the empty Flats East Bank will at least appreciate the evening for its temporary habitation of an area once flooded with visitors. The city deserves evenings/events like this...hopefully through the successful execution of Leap Night, the city will have yet another creative and collaborative process for activating its vacant urban assets...

Not to mention it is going to be damn cool to see an orchard of dead Christmas trees…anyone have Tim Burtons email? He should be invited…

I would encourage everyone to check out the website, http://www.popupcleveland.com/, and definitely email ideas/concerns via the website.


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