Hemming Park partners with Southwest Airlines and PPS

April 24, 2015 8 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Hemming Park is one of six public spaces across the country to receive a $100,000 grant from Southwest Airlines, announces partnership with Project for Public Spaces. Jaxsons Night Market @ Hemming Park. Photo by Jordan Mixson.

Southwest Airlines grew its multi-year commitment to placemaking and local community development, announcing that six cities across the U.S. will receive Heart of the Community grants to reimagine and activate important, underutilized local public spaces. Jacksonville's Hemming Park has been selected as a 2015 recipient and will receive a $100,000 grant through Southwest's lead partner, the world renowned leader in placemaking, Project for Public Spaces (PPS). In addition, PPS will be providing an additional $100,000 of professional in kind services that will be used to help establish a clear vision and programming platform for the park.

Placemaking, an emerging movement with environmentalist roots, positions public spaces as an engine for urban development, serving as a catalyst for building sustainable, healthy, inclusive, and economically viable neighborhoods.
Southwest’s lead partner, Project for Public Spaces (PPS), has refined the participatory placemaking process for more than 40 years. PPS has previously worked with open spaces in Baltimore, Houston, Chicago, San Diego, Detroit, Providence and San Antonio through the Southwest Heart of the Community program.

Here are examples of successful placemaking projects undertaken by PPS. These case studies offer an insight into the types of changes one may expect to see with PPS assisting Friends of Hemming Park over the course of 2015:

Campus Martius, Detroit

In late 1999, PPS began working with the City of Detroit to reclaim a concrete island less than two acres in size that had historically functioned as the heart of downtown, and still serves as the origin from which all addresses and numbered streets in Detroit begin. PPS worked with the community to develop a vision for a park that would become, in the Mayor’s words, “the best public space in the world.” In 2010, Campus Martius was awarded the Amanda Burden Urban Open Space Award from the Urban Land Institute, an award that “celebrates and promotes vibrant, successful urban open spaces by annually recognizing and rewarding an outstanding example of a public destination that has enriched and revitalized its surrounding community.”

A new beach, funded in part by Southwest Airlines, at the southern end of Campus Martius which quickly became Detroit’s hottest gathering place for people of all ages. Photo by PPS.

Burnside Park, Providence

A few years ago Burnside Park was facing problems similar to many downtown parks—the space was dominated by a small number of unemployed adults, and there was little reason for other residents or visitors to want to spend time there. Beginning with a series of public workshops facilitated by Project for Public Spaces (PPS), they began to develop a long-term vision to knit these disconnected spaces together and to fill them with a diverse range of uses and activities. Photo by PPS.

Kids build with Lego while storyteller Valerie Tutson performs for families in Burnside Park. Photo by PPS.

Travis Park, San Antonio

One of the oldest municipal parks in the country, Travis Park had the opportunity to become a great urban destination that is historic, dynamic and contemporary at the same time. Travis Park had long been known by many as a place to pass through quickly and “avoid eye contact,” not a place where you would want to stay and linger. In early 2013, Project for Public Spaces (PPS) began collaborating with the City of San Antonio’s Center City Development Office (CCDO), downtown San Antonio residents, area stakeholders and the community at large to create a vision, a concept and an action plan for the revitalization of historic Travis Park. Photo by PPS.

Travis Park Before. Photo by PPS.

Travis Park After. Photo by PPS.

The goal of this Placemaking initiative was to envision and transform this underutilized public space into a multi-functional urban park where people of all ages and cultures can socialize, relax, play, learn, and participate in community activities. Photo by PPS.

Along with new umbrellas and tables and chairs, a kiosk houses books and games for people to check out, while a giant chess board provides hours of entertainment for park visitors. Photo by PPS.

A Worldwide Leader Becomes Committed Partner in Jacksonville

Volunteers engage in landscaping improvements within Hemming Park, funded by a $35,000 grant from Wells Fargo. Photo by Downtown Vision, Inc.

“Cities are more than destinations—they are places of human connections and livelihood,” said Gary Kelly, Chairman, President, and CEO of Southwest Airlines.  “Our Purpose at Southwest is to connect People to what’s important in their lives.  What better way to do that than by helping to create more access to our public spaces where communities can come together?”

Strengthened by broad community participation and engagement, placemaking incorporates the planning, design, management, and program development for public spaces as a means to advance vibrant, sustainable communities. Placemaking strengthens the connection between people and the places they share. For the past half-century, common urban problems, like traffic-dominated streets, unused parks, and isolated, underperforming capital improvement projects have led to increased feelings of social isolation and division.

“The best way to build a sustainable world is by focusing on Place,” said Fred Kent, Founder and President of PPS. “Placemaking is more than how we design public spaces—it is a means by which people are collectively and intentionally shaping their environment and building deep and lasting community ties. Placemaking turns our approaches to land-use, transportation, governance, and the environment upside-down by asking people what they fundamentally need in a public space and empowering them to be a part of the development process.”

"This grant is designed to bring the community together through a brainstorm process where we can collectively decide what to create in the park. It's not going to be Hemming Park's decision, it's going to be the community's decision about what project is brought to life in the public space," said Vince Cavin, Executive Director of Friends of Hemming Park. "PPS has committed to providing an additional $100K for the community charette and technical support throughout the year as we design and implement the project. That's really exciting because they have proven themselves as the experts in leading well-crafted placemaking ventures."

Read more about the key role public spaces play in community building: Places in the Making, an MIT whitepaper. http://dusp.mit.edu/sites/dusp.mit.edu/files/attachments/project/Places-in-the-Making_Executive-Summary-for-web.pdf

For more information on the Heart of the Community Program, visit: http://www.pps.org/heart-of-the-community